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The Canterbury Tales. 
Geoffrey Chaucer. 


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Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

About the author 

Geoffrey Chaucer (ca.l343- 
1400) was an English author, philoso- 
pher, diplomat, and poet, and is best 
known and remembered as the au- 
thor of The Canterbury Tales. He is 
sometimes credited with being the 
first author to demonstrate the artistic 
legitimacy of the English language. 


He was a contemporary of Giovanni Boccaccio and Christine de 
Pizan. Although born as a son of a vintner, he became a page at the 
court of Edward III of England. He was in the service of first Eliza- 
beth de Burgh, Countess of Ulster, and then Lionel of Antwerp, son of 
Edward III. He traveled from England to France, Spain, Flanders, and 
Italy (Genoa and Florence), where he came into contact with medieval 
continental poetry. 

Geoffrey Chaucer 

Chaucer married, ca. 1366, Philippa (de) Roet, a lady-in-waiting to 
Edward Ill's queen, Philippa of Hainault and a sister of Katherine 
Swynford, who later (ca. 1396) became the third wife of Chaucer's 
friend and patron, John of Gaunt. 

Chaucer wrote poetry as a diversion from his job as Comptroller of 
the Customs for the port of London, and also translated such impor- 
tant works as The Romance of the Rose, written in French by Guillaume 
de Lorris and enlarged years later by Jean de Meun, and Anicius 

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Manlius Severinus Boethius' De consolatione philosophiae. He also 
wrote the Parlement of Foules and the House of Fame. However, he's 
best known as the writer of Troilus and Criseyde and of The Canter- 
bury Tales, a collection of stories (told by fictional pilgrims on the road 
to the cathedral at Canterbury) that would help to shape English 

Chaucer's Chanticleer and the Fox was based on a story by Marie 
de France. The image shows an outdoor production of the tale at Ashby- 
de-la-Zouch castle. 

In the history of English literature, he is considered the introducer 
of continental accentual- syllabic metre as an alternative to the allitera- 
tive Anglo-Saxon metre. He also helped to standardise the southern 
accent (London area) of the Middle English language. 

Chaucer died on October 25, 1400. He is buried at Westminster 
Abbey in London, and was the first tenant of the Poets' Corner. 

Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

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The Knight's Tale. 

The Miller's Tale. 

The Reeve's Tale. 

The Cook's Tale. 

The Man of Law's Tale. 

The Wife of Bath's Tale. 

The Friar's Tale. 

The Sompnour'sTale. 

The Clerk's Tale. 

The Merchant Tale. 

The Squire's Tale. 

The Franklin's Tale. 

The Doctor's Tale. 

The Pardoner's Tale. 

The Shipman'sTale. 

The Prioress's Tale. 

Chaucer's Tale of SirThopas. 

Chaucer's Tale of Miliboeus. 

The Monk's Tale. 

The Nun's Priest Tale. 

The Second Nun's Tale. 

The Canon Yeoman's Tale. 

The Manciple's Tale. 

The Parson's Tale. 

Preces de Chaucer. 


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Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

The Canterbury Tales. 


Copyright © 2004 

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WHEN that Aprihs, with his showers swoot*, *sweet 

The drought of March hath pierced to the root, 

And bathed every vein in such licour, 

Of which virtue engender 'd is the flower; 

When Zephyrus eke with his swoote breath 

Inspired hath in every holt* and heath 

The tender croppes* and the younge sun 

Hath in the Ram < 1 > his halfe course y-run, 

And smalle fowles make melody, 

That sleepen all the night with open eye, 

(So pricketh them nature in their corages*); 

Then longe folk to go on pilgrimages. 

And palmers <2> for to seeke strange strands. 

To *ferne hallows couth* in sundry lands; *distant saints known*<3 

And specially, from every shire s end 

Of Engleland, to Canterbury they wend. 

The holy blissful Martyr for to seek. 

That them hath holpen*, when that they were sick. *helped 

*grove, forest 
*twigs, boughs 

*hearts, incUnations 

Befell that, in that season on a day. 
In Southwark at the Tabard <4> as I lay. 
Ready to wenden on my pilgrimage 
To Canterbury with devout corage. 

Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

At night was come into that hostelry 

Well nine and twenty in a company 

Of sundry folk, *by aventure y-fall *who had by chance fallen 

In fellowship*, and pilgrims were they all, into company* <5> 

That toward Canterbury wo ulde ride. 

The chamber, and the stables were wide. 

And *well we weren eased at the best.* 

And shortly, when the sunne was to rest. 

So had I spoken with them every one. 

That I was of their fellowship anon. 

And made forword* early for to rise. 

To take our way there as I you devise*. 

we were well provided 
with the best* 

*describe, relate 

But natheless, while I have time and space. 
Ere that I farther in this tale pace. 
Me thinketh it accordant to reason. 
To tell you alle the condition 
Of each of them, so as it seemed me. 
And which they weren, and of what degree; 
And eke in what array that they were in: 
And at a Knight then will I first begin. 

A KNIGHT there was, and that a worthy man. 

That from the time that he first began 

To riden out, he loved chivalry. 

Truth and honour, freedom and courtesy. 

Full worthy was he in his Lorde's war. 

And thereto had he ridden, no man farre*, *farther 

As well in Christendom as in Heatheness, 

And ever honour 'd for his worthiness 

At Alisandre <6> he was when it was won. 

Full often time he had the board begun 

Above alle nations in Prusse.<7> 

In Lettowe had he reysed,* and in Russe, *journeyed 

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No Christian man so oft of his degree. 

In Grenade at the siege eke had he be 

Of Algesir, and ridden in Belmarie. <8> 

At Leyes was he, and at Satalie, 

When they were won; and in the Greate Sea 

At many a noble army had he be. 

At mortal battles had he been fifteen. 

And foughten for our faith atTramissene. 

In listes thries, and aye slain his foe. 

This ilke* worthy knight had been also 

Some time with the lord of Palatie, 

Against another heathen in Turkic: 

And evermore *he had a sovereign price*. 

And though that he was worthy he was wise. 

And of his port as meek as is a maid. 

He never yet no villainy ne said 

In all his life, unto no manner wight. 

He was a very perfect gentle knight. 

But for to telle you of his array. 

His horse was good, but yet he was not gay. 

Of fustian he weared a gipon*, *short doublet 

Alle *besmotter'd with his habergeon,* *soiled by his coat of mail. 

For he was late y-come from his voyage. 

And wente for to do his pilgrimage. 

*same <9> 

He was held in very 
high esteem.* 

With him there was his son, a younge SQUIRE, 

A lover, and a lusty bacheler. 

With lockes crulle* as they were laid in press. 

Of twenty year of age he was I guess. 

Of his stature he was of even length. 

And *wonderly deliver*, and great of strength. 

And he had been some time in chevachie*. 

In Flanders, in Artois, and Picardie, 

And borne him well, *as of so little space*, *in such a short time 


Wonderfully nimble* 
*cavalry raids 

Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

In hope to standen in his lady's grace. 

Embroider'd was he, as it were a mead 

All full of freshe flowers, white and red. 

Singing he was, or fluting all the day; 

He was as fresh as is the month of May. 

Short was his gown, with sleeves long and wide. 

Well could he sit on horse, and faire ride. 

He coulde songes make, and well indite. 

Joust, and eke dance, and well pourtray and write. 

So hot he loved, that by nightertale* *night-time 

He slept no more than doth the nightingale. 

Courteous he was, lowly, and serviceable. 

And carv'd before his father at the table. < 10 > 

A YEOMAN had he, and servants no mo' 

At that time, for *him list ride so* *it pleased him so to ride* 

And he was clad in coat and hood of green. 

A sheaf of peacock arrows< 11 > bright and keen 

Under his belt he bare full thriftily. 

Well could he dress his tackle yeomanly: 

His arrows drooped not with feathers low; 

And in his hand he bare a mighty bow. 

A nut-head < 12> had he, with a brown visiage: 

Of wood-craft coud* he well all the usage: *knew 

Upon his arm he bare a gay bracer*, *small shield 

And by his side a sword and a buckler. 

And on that other side a gay daggere. 

Harnessed well, and sharp as point of spear: 

A Christopher on his breast of silver sheen. 

An horn he bare, the baldric was of green: 

A forester was he soothly* as I guess. *certainly 

There was also a Nun, a PRIORESS, 
That of her smiling was full simple and coy; 

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Her greatest oathe was but by Saint Loy; 

And she was cleped* Madame Eglentine. *called 

Full well she sang the service divine, 

Entuned in her nose full seemly; 

And French she spake full fair and fetisly* *properly 

After the school of Stratford atte Bow, 

For French of Paris was to her unknow. 

At meate was she well y-taught withal; 

She let no morsel from her lippes fall. 

Nor wet her fmgers in her sauce deep. 

Well could she carry a morsel, and well keep. 

That no droppe ne fell upon her breast. 

In courtesy was set full much her lest*. 

Her over-lippe wiped she so clean. 

That in her cup there was no farthing* seen 

Of grease, when she drunken had her draught; 

Full seemely after her meat she raught*: 

And *sickerly she was of great disport*. 

And full pleasant, and amiable of port. 

And *pained her to counterfeite cheer 

Of court,* and be estately of mannere. 

And to be holden digne* of reverence. 

But for to speaken of her conscience. 

She was so charitable and so pitous,* *full of pity 

She woulde weep if that she saw a mouse 

Caught in a trap, if it were dead or bled. 

Of smalle houndes had she, that she fed 

With roasted flesh, and milk, and *wastel bread.* *fmest white bread* 

But sore she wept if one of them were dead. 

Or if men smote it with a yarde* smart: *staff 

And all was conscience and tender heart. 

Full seemly her wimple y-pinched was; 

Her nose tretis;* her eyen gray as glass; < 13 > *well-formed 

Her mouth full small, and thereto soft and red; 


*reached out her hand 
^surely she was of a lively 
*took pains to assume 
a courtly disposition* 

Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

certainly she was not small* 

But sickerly she had a fair forehead. 

It was almost a spanne broad I trow; 

For *hardily she was not undergrow*. 

Full fetis* was her cloak, as I was ware 

Of small coral about her arm she bare 

A pair of beades, gauded all with green; 

And thereon hung a brooch of gold full sheen, 

On which was first y-written a crown'd A, 

And after, *Amor vincit omnia.* *love conquers all' 

Another Nun also with her had she, 

[That was her chapelleine, and PRIESTES three.] 

A MONK there was, a fair *for the mast ry*. 

An out-rider, that loved venery*; 

A manly man, to be an abbot able. 

Full many a dainty horse had he in stable: 

And when he rode, men might his bridle hear 

Jingeling <15> in a whistling wind as clear. 

And eke as loud, as doth the chapel bell. 

There as this lord was keeper of the cell. 

The rule of Saint Maur and of Saint Benet, <16; 

Because that it was old and somedeal strait 

This ilke* monk let olde thinges pace. 

And held after the newe world the trace. 

He *gave not of the text a pulled hen,* 

That saith, that hunters be not holy men: 

Ne that a monk, when he is cloisterless; 

Is like to a fish that is waterless; 

This is to say, a monk out of his cloister. 

This ilke text held he not worth an oyster; 

And I say his opinion was good. 

Why should he study, and make himselfe wood* 

Upon a book in cloister always pore. 

Or swinken* with his handes, and labour. 

*above all others* 


he cared nothing 
for the text* 



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As Austin bid? how shall the world be served? 
Let Austin have his swink to him reserved. 
Therefore he was a prickasour* aright: *hard rider 

Greyhounds he had as swift as fowl of flight; 
Of pricking* and of hunting for the hare *riding 

Was all his lust,* for no cost would he spare. *pleasure 

I saw his sleeves *purfird at the hand *worked at the end with a 
With gris,* and that the finest of the land. fur called "gris"* 

And for to fasten his hood under his chin. 
He had of gold y- wrought a curious pin; 
A love-knot in the greater end there was. 
His head was bald, and shone as any glass. 
And eke his face, as it had been anoint; 
He was a lord full fat and in good point; 

His eyen steep,* and rolling in his head, *deep-set 

That steamed as a furnace of a lead. 
His bootes supple, his horse in great estate. 
Now certainly he was a fair prelate; 

He was not pale as a forpined* ghost; *wasted 

A fat swan lov'd he best of any roast. 
His palfrey was as brown as is a berry. 

A FRIAR there was, a wanton and a merry, 

A limitour <18>, a full solemne man. 

In all the orders four is none that can* *knows 

So much of dalliance and fair language. 

He had y-made full many a marriage 

Of younge women, at his owen cost. 

Unto his order he was a noble post; 

Full well belov'd, and familiar was he 

With franklins *over all* in his country, *everywhere* 

And eke with worthy women of the town: 

For he had power of confession. 

As said himselfe, more than a curate. 

Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

For of his order he was licentiate. 
Full sweetely heard he confession, 
And pleasant was his absolution. 
He was an easy man to give penance, 
*There as he wist to have a good pittance:* 
For unto a poor order for to give 
Is signe that a man is well y-shrive. 
For if he gave, he *durste make avant*. 
He wiste* that the man was repentant. 
For many a man so hard is of his heart. 
He may not weep although him sore smart 
Therefore instead of weeping and prayeres. 
Men must give silver to the poore freres. 
His tippet was aye farsed* full of knives 
And pinnes, for to give to faire wives; 
And certainly he had a merry note: 
Well could he sing and playen *on a rote*; 
Of yeddings* he bare utterly the prize. 
His neck was white as is the fleur-de-lis. 
Thereto he strong was as a champion. 
And knew well the taverns in every town. 
And every hosteler and gay tapstere. 
Better than a lazar* or a beggere. 
For unto such a worthy man as he 
Accordeth not, as by his faculty. 
To have with such lazars acquaintance. 
It is not honest, it may not advance. 
As for to deale with no such pouraille*. 
But all with rich, and sellers of vitaille*. 
And *ov'r all there as* profit should arise. 
Courteous he was, and lowly of service; 
There n'as no man nowhere so virtuous. 
He was the beste beggar in all his house: 
And gave a certain farme for the grant, <19> 

*where he know he would 
get good payment* 

*dared to boast* 


*from memory* 


*offal, refuse 
*in every place where& 

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None of his bretheren came in his haunt. 

For though a widow hadde but one shoe. 

So pleasant was his In Principio,<20> 

Yet would he have a farthing ere he went; 

His purchase was well better than his rent. 

And rage he could and play as any whelp. 

In lovedays <21 >; there could he muchel* help. *greatly 

For there was he not like a cloisterer. 

With threadbare cope as is a poor scholer; 

But he was like a master or a pope. 

Of double worsted was his semicope*, *short cloak 

That rounded was as a bell out of press. 

Somewhat he lisped for his wantonness. 

To make his English sweet upon his tongue; 

And in his harping, when that he had sung. 

His eyen* twinkled in his head aright, *eyes 

As do the starres in a frosty night. 

This worthy limitour <18> was call'd Huberd. 

A MERCHANT was there with a forked beard. 
In motley, and high on his horse he sat. 
Upon his head a Flandrish beaver hat. 
His bootes clasped fair and fetisly*. 
His reasons aye spake he full solemnly. 
Sounding alway th' increase of his winning. 
He would the sea were kept <22> for any thing 
Betwixte Middleburg and Orewell<23> 
Well could he in exchange shieldes* sell 
This worthy man full well his wit beset*; 
There wiste* no wight** that he was in debt. 
So *estately was he of governance* 
With his bargains, and with his chevisance*. 
For sooth he was a worthy man withal. 
But sooth to say, I not* how men him call. 


*crown coins <24> 
*knew **man 
so well he managed* 
*business contract 

*know not 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

*thin; **poorly 
uppermost short cloak* 


A CLERK there was of Oxenford* also, *Oxford 

That unto logic hadde long y-go*. *devoted himself 

As leane was his horse as is a rake, 

And he was not right fat, I undertake; 

But looked hollow*, and thereto soberly**. 

Full threadbare was his *overest courtepy*. 

For he had gotten him yet no benefice, 

Ne was not worldly, to have an office. 

For him was lever* have at his bed's head 

Twenty bookes, clothed in black or red. 

Of Aristotle, and his philosophy. 

Than robes rich, or fiddle, or psalt'ry. 

But all be that he was a philosopher. 

Yet hadde he but little gold in coffer. 

But all that he might of his friendes hent*, *obtain 

On bookes and on learning he it spent. 

And busily gan for the soules pray 

Of them that gave him <25> wherewith to schoky 

Of study took he moste care and heed. 

Not one word spake he more than was need; 

And that was said in form and reverence. 

And short and quick, and full of high sentence. 

Sounding in moral virtue was his speech. 

And gladly would he learn, and gladly teach. 


A SERGEANT OF THE LAW, wary and wise. 
That often had y-been at the Parvis, <26> 
There was also, full rich of excellence. 
Discreet he was, and of great reverence: 
He seemed such, his wordes were so wise. 
Justice he was full often in assize. 
By patent, and by plein* commission; 
For his science, and for his high renown. 


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Of fees and robes had he many one. 
So great a purchaser was nowhere none. 
All was fee simple to him, in effect 
His purchasing might not be in suspect* 
Nowhere so busy a man as he there was 
And yet he seemed busier than he was 
In termes had he case' and doomes* all 
That from the time of King Will, were fall. 
Thereto he could indite, and make a thing 
There coulde no wight *pinch at* his writing. 
And every statute coud* he plain by rote 
He rode but homely in a medley* coat. 
Girt with a seint* of silk, with barres small; 
Of his array tell I no longer tale. 




*find fault with* 


A FRANKELIN* was in this company; 
White was his beard, as is the daisy. 
Of his complexion he was sanguine. 
Well lov'd he in the morn a sop in wine. 
To liven in delight was ever his won*. 
For he was Epicurus' owen son. 
That held opinion, that plein* delight 
Was verily felicity perfite. 
An householder, and that a great, was he; 
Saint Julian<27> he was in his country. 
His bread, his ale, was alway *after one*; 
A better envined* man was nowhere none; 
Withoute bake-meat never was his house. 
Offish and flesh, and that so plenteous. 
It snowed in his house of meat and drink. 
Of alle dainties that men coulde think. 
After the sundry seasons of the year. 
So changed he his meat and his soupere. 
Full many a fat partridge had he in mew*. 

*Rich landowner 



*pressed on one* 
*stored with wine 

*cage <28> 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And many a bream, and many a luce* in stew*^ 
Woe was his cook, *but iP his sauce were 
Poignant and sharp, and ready all his gear. 
His table dormant* in his hall alway 
Stood ready cover'd all the longe day 
At sessions there was he lord and sire. 
Full often time he was *knight of the shire* 
An anlace*, and a gipciere** all of silk. 
Hung at his girdle, white as morning milk. 
A sheriff had he been, and a countour<30> 
Was nowhere such a worthy vavasour< 3 1 > . 

<29> *pike **fish-pond 


*Member of Parliament* 
*dagger **purse 

A WEBBE*, a DYER, and aTAPISER**, 

Were with us eke, cloth'd in one livery. 
Of a solemn and great fraternity. 
Full fresh and new their gear y-picked* was. 
Their knives were y-chaped* not with brass. 
But all with silver wrought full clean and well. 
Their girdles and their pouches *every deal*. 
Well seemed each of them a fair burgess. 
To sitten in a guild-hall, on the dais. <32> 
Evereach, for the wisdom that he can*. 
Was shapely* for to be an alderman. 
For chattels hadde they enough and rent. 
And eke their wives would it well assent: 
And elles certain they had been to blame. 
It is full fair to be y-clep'd madame. 
And for to go to vigils all before. 
And have a mantle royally y-bore.< 33 > 

*weaver **tapestry-maker 


*in every part* 


A COOK they hadde with them for the nones*. 
To boil the chickens and the marrowbones. 
And powder merchant tart and galingale. 

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Well could he know a draught of London ale. 

He could roast, and stew, and broil, and fry. 

Make mortrewes, and well bake a pie. 

But great harm was it, as it thoughte me. 

That, on his shin a mormal* hadde he. *ulcer 

For blanc manger, that made he with the best <34> 


A SHIPMAN was there, *wonned far by West*: *who dwelt far 

For ought I wot, be was of Dartemouth. to the West* 

He rode upon a rouncy*, as he couth, *hack 

All in a gown of falding* to the knee. *coarse cloth 

A dagger hanging by a lace had he 

About his neck under his arm adown; 

The hot summer had made his hue all brown; 

And certainly he was a good fellaw 

Full many a draught of wine he had y-draw 

From Bourdeaux-ward, while that the chapmen sleep; 

Of nice conscience took he no keep. 

If that he fought, and had the higher hand, 

*By water he sent them home to every land.* *he drowned his 

But of his craft to reckon well his tides, prisoners* 

His streames and his strandes him besides. 

His herberow*, his moon, and lodemanage**, *harbourage 

There was none such, from Hull unto Carthage **pilotage<35> 

Hardy he was, and wise, I undertake: 

With many a tempest had his beard been shake. 

He knew well all the havens, as they were. 

From Scotland to the Cape of Finisterre, 

And every creek in Bretagne and in Spain: 

His barge y-cleped was the Magdelain. 

With us there was a DOCTOR OF PHYSIC; 
In all this worlde was there none him like 
To speak of physic, and of surgery: 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

For he was grounded in astronomy. 

He kept his patient a full great deal 

In houres by his magic natural. 

Well could he fortune* the ascendent *make fortunate 

Of his images for his patient,. 

He knew the cause of every malady, 

Were it of cold, or hot, or moist, or dry. 

And where engender'd, and of what humour. 

He was a very perfect practisour 

The cause y-know,* and of his harm the root, *known 

Anon he gave to the sick man his boot* *remedy 

Full ready had he his apothecaries. 

To send his drugges and his lectuaries 

For each of them made other for to win 

Their friendship was not newe to begin 

Well knew he the old Esculapius, 

And Dioscorides, and eke Rufus; 

Old Hippocras, Hali, and Gallien; 

Serapion, Rasis, and Avicen; 

Averrois, Damascene, and Constantin; 

Bernard, and Gatisden, and Gilbertin. <36> 

Of his diet measurable was he. 

For it was of no superfluity. 

But of great nourishing, and digestible. 

His study was but little on the Bible. 

In sanguine* and in perse** he clad was all *red **blue 

Lined with taffeta, and with sendall*. *fme silk 

And yet *he was but easy of dispense*: *he spent very little* 

He kept *that he won in the pestilence*. *the money he made 

For gold in physic is a cordial; during the plague* 

Therefore he loved gold in special. 

A good WIFE was there OF beside BATH, 

But she was somedeal deaf, and that was scath*. *damage; pity 

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Of cloth-making she hadde such an haunt*, *skill 

She passed them of Ypres, and of Gaunt. <37> 

In all the parish wife was there none. 

That to the off ring* before her should gon, *the offering at mass 

And if there did, certain so wroth was she. 

That she was out of alle charity 

Her coverchiefs* were full fme of ground *head-dresses 

I durste swear, they weighede ten pound <38> 

That on the Sunday were upon her head. 

Her hosen weren of fme scarlet red. 

Full strait y-tied, and shoes full moist* and new *fresh <39> 

Bold was her face, and fair and red of hue. 

She was a worthy woman all her live. 

Husbands at the church door had she had five, 

Withouten other company in youth; 

But thereof needeth not to speak as nouth*. *now 

And thrice had she been at Jerusalem; 

She hadde passed many a strange stream 

At Rome she had been, and at Bologne, 

In Galice at Saint James, <40> and at Cologne; 

She coude* much of wand'rng by the Way. *knew 

Gat-toothed* was she, soothly for to say. *Buck-toothed<41 > 

Upon an ambler easily she sat, 

Y-wimpled well, and on her head an hat 

As broad as is a buckler or a targe. 

A foot-mantle about her hippes large. 

And on her feet a pair of spurres sharp. 

In fellowship well could she laugh and carp* *jest, talk 

Of remedies of love she knew perchance 

For of that art she coud* the olde dance. *knew 

A good man there was of religion. 
That was a poore PARSON of a town: 
But rich he was of holy thought and werk*. 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

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He was also a learned man, a clerk, 

That Christe's gospel truly wo ulde preach. 

His parishens* devoutly would he teach. *parishioners 

Benign he was, and wonder diligent. 

And in adversity full patient: 

And such he was y-proved *often sithes*. *oftentimes* 

Full loth were him to curse for his tithes. 

But rather would he given out of doubt. 

Unto his poore parishens about. 

Of his off ring, and eke of his substance. 

*He could in little thing have suffisance*. *he was satisfied with 

Wide was his parish, and houses far asunder, very little* 

But he ne left not, for no rain nor thunder. 

In sickness and in mischief to visit 

The farthest in his parish, *much and lit*, *great and small* 

Upon his feet, and in his hand a staff. 

This noble ensample to his sheep he gaP, *gave 

That first he wrought, and afterward he taught. 

Out of the gospel he the wordes caught. 

And this figure he added yet thereto. 

That if gold ruste, what should iron do? 

For if a priest be foul, on whom we trust. 

No wonder is a lewed* man to rust: *unlearned 

And shame it is, if that a priest take keep. 

To see a shitten shepherd and clean sheep: 

Well ought a priest ensample for to give. 

By his own cleanness, how his sheep should live. 

He sette not his benefice to hire. 

And left his sheep eucumber'd in the mire. 

And ran unto London, unto Saint Paul's, 

To seeke him a chantery<42> for souls. 

Or with a brotherhood to be withold:* *detained 

But dwelt at home, and kepte well his fold. 

So that the wolf ne made it not miscarry. 



He was a shepherd, and no mercenary. 

And though he holy were, and virtuous. 

He was to sinful men not dispitous* 

Nor of his speeche dangerous nor dign* 

But in his teaching discreet and benign. 

To drawen folk to heaven, with fairness. 

By good ensample, was his business: 

*But it were* any person obstinate. 

What so he were of high or low estate. 

Him would he snibbe* sharply for the nones**. *reprove **nonce,occasion 

A better priest I trow that nowhere none is. 

He waited after no pomp nor reverence. 

Nor maked him a *spiced conscience*, *artificial conscience* 

But Christe's lore, and his apostles' twelve. 

He taught, and first he follow'd it himselve. 

With him there was a PLOUGHMAN, was his brother. 

That had y-laid of dung full many a fother*. *ton 

A true swinker* and a good was he, *hard worker 

Living in peace and perfect charity. 

God loved he beste with all his heart 

At alle times, were it gain or smart*, *pain, loss 

And then his neighebour right as himselve. 

He woulde thresh, and thereto dike*, and delve, *dig ditches 

For Christe's sake, for every poore wight, 

Withouten hire, if it lay in his might. 

His tithes payed he full fair and well. 

Both of his *proper swink*, and his chattel** *his own labour* **goods 

In a tabard* he rode upon a mare. *sleeveless jerkin 

There was also a Reeve, and a Millere, 

A Sompnour, and a Pardoner also, 

A Manciple, and myself, there were no mo'. 

Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 
1 o 

The MILLER was a stout carle for the nones, 

Full big he was of brawn, and eke of bones; 

That proved well, for *ov'r all where* he came, *wheresoever* 

At wrestling he would bear away the ram. < 43 > 

He was short-shouldered, broad, a thicke gnarr*, *stump of wood 

There was no door, that he n'old* heave off bar, *could not 

Or break it at a running with his head. 

His beard as any sow or fox was red. 

And thereto broad, as though it were a spade. 

Upon the cop* right of his nose he had *head <44> 

A wart, and thereon stood a tuft of hairs 

Red as the bristles of a sowe's ears. 

His nose-thirles* blacke were and wide. *nostrils <45> 

A sword and buckler bare he by his side. 

His mouth as wide was as a furnace. 

He was a j angler, and a goliardais*, *buffoon <46> 

And that was most of sin and harlotries. 

Well could he steale corn, and tolle thrice 

And yet he had a thumb of gold, pardie.<47> 

A white coat and a blue hood weared he 

A baggepipe well could he blow and soun'. 

And therewithal he brought us out of town. 

A gentle MANCIPLE <48> was there of a temple. 

Of which achatours* mighte take ensample *buyers 

For to be wise in buying of vitaille*. *victuals 

For whether that he paid, or took *by taile*, *on credit 

Algate* he waited so in his achate**, *always **purchase 

That he was aye before in good estate. 

Now is not that of God a full fair grace 

That such a lewed* mannes wit shall pace** *unlearned **surpass 

The wisdom of an heap of learned men? 

Of masters had he more than thries ten. 

That were of law expert and curious: 

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Of which there was a dozen in that house. 

Worthy to be stewards of rent and land 

Of any lord that is in Engleland, 

To make him live by his proper good. 

In honour debtless, *but if he were wood*. 

Or live as scarcely as him list desire; 

And able for to helpen all a shire 

In any case that mighte fall or hap; 

And yet this Manciple *set their aller cap* 


*unless he were mad* 

*outwitted them all* 

The REEVE <49> was a slender choleric man 
His beard was shav'd as nigh as ever he can. 
His hair was by his eares round y-shorn; 
His top was docked like a priest beforn 
Full longe were his legges, and full lean 
Y-like a staff, there was no calf y-seen 
Well could he keep a garner* and a bin* 
There was no auditor could on him win 
Well wist he by the drought, and by the rain. 
The yielding of his seed and of his grain 
His lorde's sheep, his neat*, and his dairy 
His swine, his horse, his store, and his poultry. 
Were wholly in this Reeve s governing. 
And by his cov'nant gave he reckoning. 
Since that his lord was twenty year of age; 
There could no man bring him in arrearage 
There was no bailiff, herd, nor other hine* 
That he ne knew his *sleight and his covine* 
They were adrad* of him, as of the death 
His wonning* was full fair upon an heath 
With greene trees y-shadow'd was his place. 
He coulde better than his lord purchase 
Full rich he was y-stored privily 
His lord well could he please subtilly, 

*storeplaces for grain 


*tricks and cheating* 
*in dread 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

To give and lend him of his owen good, 

And have a thank, and yet* a coat and hood. 

In youth he learned had a good mistere* 

He was a well good wright, a carpentere 

This Reeve sate upon a right good stot*. 

That was all pomely* gray, and highte** Scot. 

A long surcoat of perse* upon he had. 

And by his side he bare a rusty blade. 

Of Norfolk was this Reeve, of which I tell. 

Beside a town men clepen* Baldeswell, 

Tucked he was, as is a friar, about. 

And ever rode the *hinderest of the rout*. *hindmost of the group* 



*dappled **called 



A SOMPNOUR* was there with us in that place, *summoner <50> 

That had a fire-red cherubinnes face. 

For sausefleme* he was, with eyen narrow. *red or pimply 

As hot he was and lecherous as a sparrow. 

With scalled browes black, and pilled* beard: *scanty 

Of his visage children were sore afeard. 

There n'as quicksilver, litharge, nor brimstone. 

Boras, ceruse, nor oil of tartar none. 

Nor ointement that woulde cleanse or bite. 

That him might helpen of his whelkes* white, *pustules 

Nor of the knobbes* sitting on his cheeks. *buttons 

Well lov'd he garlic, onions, and leeks. 

And for to drink strong wine as red as blood. 

Then would he speak, and cry as he were wood; 

And when that he well drunken had the wine. 

Then would he speake no word but Latin. 

A fewe termes knew he, two or three. 

That he had learned out of some decree; 

No wonder is, he heard it all the day. 

And eke ye knowen well, how that a jay 

Can clepen* "Wat," as well as can the Pope. *call 

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But whoso would in other thing him grope*, *search 

Then had he spent all his philosophy. 
Aye, Questio quid juris,<51> would he cry. 


He was a gentle harlot* and a kind; *a low fellow<52> 

A better fellow should a man not fmd. 

He woulde suffer, for a quart of wine, 

A good fellow to have his concubine 

A twelvemonth, and excuse him at the full. 

Full privily a *fmch eke could he pull*. *"fleece" a man* 

And if he found owhere* a good fellaw, *anywhere 

He woulde teache him to have none awe 

In such a case of the archdeacon's curse; 

*But iP a manne's soul were in his purse; *unless* 

For in his purse he should y-punished be. 

"Purse is the archedeacons hell," said he. 

But well I wot, he lied right indeed: 

Of cursing ought each guilty man to dread. 

For curse will slay right as assoiling* saveth; *absolving 

And also ware him of a significavit<53>. 

In danger had he at his owen guise 

The younge girles of the diocese, <54> 

And knew their counsel, and was of their rede*. *counsel 

A garland had he set upon his head. 

As great as it were for an alestake*: *The post of an alehouse sign 

A buckler had he made him of a cake. 

With him there rode a gentle PARDONERE <SS> 

Of Ronceval, his friend and his compere. 

That straight was comen from the court of Rome. 

Full loud he sang, "Come hither, love, to me" 

This Sompnour *bare to him a stiff burdoun*. 

Was never trump of half so great a soun'. 

This Pardoner had hair as yellow as wax. 

*sang the bass* 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

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But smooth it hung, as doth a strike* of flax: *strip 

By ounces hung his lockes that he had, 

And therewith he his shoulders oversprad. 

Full thin it lay, by culpons* one and one, *locks, shreds 

But hood for jollity, he weared none. 

For it was trussed up in his wallet. 

Him thought he rode all of the *newe get*, *latest fashion*<56> 

Dishevel, save his cap, he rode all bare. 

Such glaring eyen had he, as an hare. 

A vernicle* had he sew'd upon his cap. *image of Christ <S7> 

His wallet lay before him in his lap, 

Bretful* of pardon come from Rome all hot. *brimful 

A voice he had as small as hath a goat. 

No beard had he, nor ever one should have. 

As smooth it was as it were new y-shave; 

I trow he were a gelding or a mare. 

But of his craft, from Berwick unto Ware, 

Ne was there such another pardonere. 

For in his mail* he had a pillowbere**, *bag <58> **pillowcase 

Which, as he saide, was our Lady's veil: 

He said, he had a gobbet* of the sail *piece 

That Sainte Peter had, when that he went 

Upon the sea, till Jesus Christ him hent*. *took hold of 

He had a cross of latoun* full of stones, *copper 

And in a glass he hadde pigge's bones. 

But with these relics, whenne that he fond 

A poore parson dwelling upon lond. 

Upon a day he got him more money 

Than that the parson got in moneths tway; 

And thus with feigned flattering and japes*, *jests 

He made the parson and the people his apes. 

But truely to tellen at the last. 

He was in church a noble ecclesiast. 

Well could he read a lesson or a story. 

But alderbest* he sang an offertory: *best of all 

For well he wiste, when that song was sung. 

He muste preach, and well afile* his tongue, *polish 

To winne silver, as he right well could: 

Therefore he sang full merrily and loud. 

Now have I told you shortly in a clause 

Th' estate, th' array, the number, and eke the cause 

Why that assembled was this company 

In Southwark at this gentle hostelry. 

That highte the Tabard, fast by the Bell. < 59 > 

But now is time to you for to tell 

*How that we baren us that ilke night*, *what we did that same night* 

When we were in that hostelry alight. 

And after will I tell of our voyage. 

And all the remnant of our pilgrimage. 

But first I pray you of your courtesy. 

That ye *arette it not my villainy*, *count it not rudeness in me* 

Though that I plainly speak in this mattere. 

To tellen you their wordes and their cheer; 

Not though I speak their wordes properly. 

For this ye knowen all so well as I, 

Whoso shall tell a tale after a man. 

He must rehearse, as nigh as ever he can. 

Every word, if it be in his charge, 

*A11 speak he* ne'er so rudely and so large; *let him speak* 

Or elles he must tell his tale untrue. 

Or feigne things, or fmde wordes new. 

He may not spare, although he were his brother; 

He must as well say one word as another. 

Christ spake Himself full broad in Holy Writ, 

And well ye wot no villainy is it. 

Eke Plato saith, whoso that can him read. 

The wordes must be cousin to the deed. 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Also I pray you to forgive it me, 

*A11 have I* not set folk in their degree, *although I have* 

Here in this tale, as that they shoulden stand: 

My wit is short, ye may well understand. 

Great cheere made our Host us every one. 

And to the supper set he us anon: 

And served us with victual of the best. 

Strong was the wine, and well to drink us lest*. *pleased 

A seemly man Our Hoste was withal 

For to have been a marshal in an hall. 

A large man he was with eyen steep*, *deep-set. 

A fairer burgess is there none in Cheap < 60 > : 

Bold of his speech, and wise and well y-taught. 

And of manhoode lacked him right naught. 

Eke thereto was he right a merry man. 

And after supper playen he began. 

And spake of mirth amonges other things. 

When that we hadde made our reckonings; 

And saide thus; "Now, lordinges, truly 

Ye be to me welcome right heartily: 

For by my troth, if that I shall not lie, 

I saw not this year such a company 

At once in this herberow*, am is now. *inn <61> 

Fain would I do you mirth, an* I wist* how. *if I knew* 

And of a mirth I am right now bethought. 

To do you ease*, and it shall coste nought. *pleasure 

Ye go to Canterbury; God you speed. 

The blissful Martyr *quite you your meed*; *grant you what 

And well I wot, as ye go by the way, you deserve* 

Ye *shapen you* to talken and to play: *intend to* 

For truely comfort nor mirth is none 

To ride by the way as dumb as stone: 

And therefore would I make you disport. 

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As I said erst, and do you some comfort. 
And if you liketh all by one assent 
Now for to standen at my judgement. 
And for to worken as I shall you say 
To-morrow, when ye riden on the way. 
Now by my father's soule that is dead, 
*But ye be merry, smiteth ofP mine head. 
Hold up your hands withoute more speech. 


*unless you are merry, 
smite off my head* 

Our counsel was not longe for to seech*: *seek 

Us thought it was not worth to *make it wise*, *discuss it at length* 

And granted him withoute more avise*, *consideration 

And bade him say his verdict, as him lest. 

Lordings (quoth he), now hearken for the best; 

But take it not, I pray you, in disdain; 

This is the point, to speak it plat* and plain. *flat 

That each of you, to shorten with your way 

In this voyage, shall tellen tales tway. 

To Canterbury-ward, I mean it so. 

And homeward he shall tellen other two. 

Of aventures that whilom have befall. 

And which of you that bear'th him best of all. 

That is to say, that telleth in this case 

Tales of best sentence and most solace. 

Shall have a supper *at your aller cost* *at the cost of you all* 

Here in this place, sitting by this post. 

When that ye come again from Canterbury. 

And for to make you the more merry, 

I will myselfe gladly with you ride. 

Right at mine owen cost, and be your guide. 

And whoso will my judgement withsay. 

Shall pay for all we spenden by the way. 

And if ye vouchesafe that it be so. 

Tell me anon withoute wordes mo'*, *more 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And I will early shape me therefore." 

This thing was granted, and our oath we swore 

With full glad heart, and prayed him also. 

That he would vouchesafe for to do so. 

And that he woulde be our governour. 

And of our tales judge and reportour. 

And set a supper at a certain price; 

And we will ruled be at his device. 

In high and low: and thus by one assent. 

We be accorded to his judgement. 

And thereupon the wine was fet* anon. *fetched. 

We drunken, and to reste went each one, 

Withouten any longer tarrying 

A-morrow, when the day began to spring. 

Up rose our host, and was *our aller cock*, *the cock to wake us all* 

And gather'd us together in a flock. 

And forth we ridden all a little space. 

Unto the watering of Saint Thomas< 62 > : 

And there our host began his horse arrest. 

And saide; "Lordes, hearken if you lest. 

Ye *weet your forword,* and I it record. *know your promise* 

If even-song and morning-song accord. 

Let see now who shall telle the first tale. 

As ever may I drinke wine or ale. 

Whoso is rebel to my judgement. 

Shall pay for all that by the way is spent. 

Now draw ye cuts*, ere that ye farther twin**. *lots **go 

He which that hath the shortest shall begin." 

"Sir Knight (quoth he), my master and my lord. 
Now draw the cut, for that is mine accord. 
Come near (quoth he), my Lady Prioress, 
And ye. Sir Clerk, let be your shamefastness. 

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Nor study not: lay hand to, every man." 
Anon to drawen every wight began. 
And shortly for to tellen as it was. 
Were it by a venture, or sort*, or cas**. 
The sooth is this, the cut fell to the Knight, 
Of which full blithe and glad was every wight; 
And tell he must his tale as was reason. 
By forword, and by composition. 
As ye have heard; what needeth wordes mo'? 
And when this good man saw that it was so. 
As he that wise was and obedient 
To keep his forword by his free assent. 
He said; "Sithen* I shall begin this game. 
Why, welcome be the cut in Godde's name. 
Now let us ride, and hearken what I say." 
And with that word we ridden forth our way; 
And he began with right a merry cheer 
His tale anon, and said as ye shall hear. 

*lot **chance 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

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>^Me <-Jnj2mAl i >^ya/e 

WHILOM*, as olde stories tellen us, *formerly 

There was a duke that highte* Theseus. *was called <2> 

Of Athens he was lord and governor. 

And in his time such a conqueror 

That greater was there none under the sun. 

Full many a riche country had he won. 

What with his wisdom and his chivalry. 

He conquer'd all the regne of Feminie,<3> 

That whilom was y-cleped Scythia; 

And weddede the Queen Hippolyta 

And brought her home with him to his country 

With muchel* glory and great solemnity, *great 

And eke her younge sister Emily, 

And thus with vict'ry and with melody 

Let I this worthy Duke to Athens ride. 

And all his host, in armes him beside. 

And certes, if it n'ere* too long to hear, *were not 

I would have told you fully the mannere. 

How wonnen* was the regne of Feminie, <4> *wo 

By Theseus, and by his chivalry; 

And of the greate battle for the nonce 

Betwixt Athenes and the Amazons; 

And how assieged was Hippolyta, 

The faire hardy queen of Scythia; 

And of the feast that was at her wedding 
And of the tempest at her homecoming. 
But all these things I must as now forbear. 
I have, God wot, a large field to ear* 
And weake be the oxen in my plough; 
The remnant of my tale is long enow. 
I will not *letten eke none of this rout*. 
Let every fellow tell his tale about. 
And let see now who shall the supper win. 
There *as I left*, I will again begin. 


*hinder any of 
this company* 

*where I left ofP 

This Duke, of whom I make mentioun. 

When he was come almost unto the town. 

In all his weal, and in his moste pride. 

He was ware, as he cast his eye aside. 

Where that there kneeled in the highe way 

A company of ladies, tway and tway. 

Each after other, clad in clothes black: 

But such a cry and such a woe they make. 

That in this world n'is creature living. 

That hearde such another waimenting* *lamenting <6> 

And of this crying would they never stenten*, *desist 

Till they the reines of his bridle henten*. *seize 

"What folk be ye that at mine homecoming 

Perturben so my feaste with crying?" 

Quoth Theseus; "Have ye so great envy 

Of mine honour, that thus complain and cry? 

Or who hath you misboden*, or offended? *wronged 

Do telle me, if it maybe amended; 

And why that ye be clad thus all in black?" 

The oldest lady of them all then spake. 

When she had swooned, with a deadly cheer*, *countenance 

That it was ruthe* for to see or hear. *pity 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

She saide; "Lord, to whom fortune hath given 
Vict'ry, and as a conqueror to liven, 
Nought grieveth us your glory and your honour; 
But we beseechen mercy and succour. 
Have mercy on our woe and our distress; 
Some drop of pity, through thy gentleness. 
Upon us wretched women let now fall. 
For certes, lord, there is none of us all 
That hath not been a duchess or a queen; 
Now be we caitives*, as it is well seen: 
Thanked be Fortune, and her false wheel. 
That *none estate ensureth to be wele*. 
And certes, lord, t'abiden your presence 
Here in this temple of the goddess Clemence 
We have been waiting all this fortenight: 
Now help us, lord, since it lies in thy might. 


assures no continuance of 
prosperous estate* 

"I, wretched wight, that weep and waile thus. 

Was whilom wife to king Capaneus, 

That starP at Thebes, cursed be that day: 

And alle we that be in this array. 

And maken all this lamentatioun. 

We losten all our husbands at that town. 

While that the siege thereabouten lay. 

And yet the olde Creon, wellaway! 

That lord is now of Thebes the city. 

Fulfilled of ire and of iniquity. 

He for despite, and for his tyranny. 

To do the deade bodies villainy*. 

Of all our lorde's, which that been y-slaw. 

Hath all the bodies on an heap y-draw. 

And will not suffer them by none assent 

Neither to be y-buried, nor y-brent*. 

But maketh houndes eat them in despite." 

*died <7> 



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And with that word, withoute more respite 
They fallen groff,* and cryden piteously; 
"Have on us wretched women some mercy. 
And let our sorrow sinken in thine heart." 

*gro veiling 

This gentle Duke down from his courser start 

With hearte piteous, when he heard them speak. 

Him thoughte that his heart would all to-break. 

When he saw them so piteous and so mate* 

That whilom weren of so great estate. 

And in his armes he them all up hent*. 

And them comforted in full good intent. 

And swore his oath, as he was true knight. 

He woulde do *so farforthly his might* 

Upon the tyrant Creon them to wreak*. 

That all the people of Greece shoulde speak. 

How Creon was of Theseus y-served. 

As he that had his death full well deserved. 

And right anon withoute more abode* 

His banner he display 'd, and forth he rode 

To Thebes-ward, and all his, host beside: 

No ner* Athenes would he go nor ride. 

Nor take his ease fully half a day. 

But onward on his way that night he lay: 

And sent anon Hippolyta the queen. 

And Emily her younge sister sheen* 

Unto the town of Athens for to dwell: 

And forth he rit*; there is no more to tell. 


*raised, took 

'as far as his power went* 


*bright, lovely 


The red statue of Mars with spear and targe* 
So shineth in his white banner large 
That all the fieldes glitter up and down: 
And by his banner borne is his pennon 
Of gold full rich, in which there was y-beat* 




Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

The Minotaur<8> which that he slew in Crete 
Thus rit this Duke, thus rit this conqueror 
And in his host of chivalry the flower, 
Till that he came to Thebes, and alight 
Fair in a field, there as he thought to fight. 
But shortly for to speaken of this thing. 
With Creon, which that was of Thebes king. 
He fought, and slew him manly as a knight 
In plain bataille, and put his folk to flight: 
And by assault he won the city after. 
And rent adown both wall, and spar, and rafter; 
And to the ladies he restored again 
The bodies of their husbands that were slain. 
To do obsequies, as was then the guise*. 


But it were all too long for to devise* *describe 

The greate clamour, and the waimenting*, *lamenting 

Which that the ladies made at the brenning* *burning 

Of the bodies, and the great honour 

That Theseus the noble conqueror 

Did to the ladies, when they from him went: 

But shortly for to tell is mine intent. 

When that this worthy Duke, this Theseus, 

Had Creon slain, and wonnen Thebes thus. 

Still in the field he took all night his rest. 

And did with all the country as him lest*. *pleased 

To ransack in the tas* of bodies dead, *heap 

Them for to strip of *harness and of **weed, *armour **clothes 

The pillers* did their business and cure, *pillagers <9> 

After the battle and discomfiture. 

And so befell, that in the tas they found. 

Through girt with many a grievous bloody wound. 

Two younge knightes *ligging by and by* *tyii^g side by side* 

Both in *one armes*, wrought full richely: *the same armour* 

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*born of two sisters* 

Of whiche two, Arcita hight that one. 

And he that other highte Palamon. 

Not fully quick*, nor fully dead they were. 

But by their coat-armour, and by their gear. 

The heralds knew them well in special. 

As those that weren of the blood royal 

Of Thebes, and *of sistren two y-born*. 

Out of the tas the pillers have them torn. 

And have them carried soft unto the tent 

Of Theseus, and he full soon them sent 

To Athens, for to dwellen in prison 

Perpetually, he *n'olde no ranson*. *would take no ransom* 

And when this worthy Duke had thus y-done. 

He took his host, and home he rit anon 

With laurel crowned as a conquerour; 

And there he lived in joy and in honour 

Term of his life; what needeth wordes mo'? 

And in a tower, in anguish and in woe, 

Dwellen this Palamon, and eke Arcite, 

For evermore, there may no gold them quite* *set free 

Thus passed year by year, and day by day. 
Till it fell ones in a morn of May 
That Emily, that fairer was to seen 
Than is the lily upon his stalke green. 
And fresher than the May with flowers new 
(For with the rose colour strove her hue; 
I n'ot* which was the finer of them two). 
Ere it was day, as she was wont to do. 
She was arisen, and all ready dight*. 
For May will have no sluggardy a-night; 
The season pricketh every gentle heart. 
And maketh him out of his sleep to start. 
And saith, "Arise, and do thine observance." 

*know not 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

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This maketh Emily have remembrance 
To do honour to May, and for to rise. 
Y-clothed was she fresh for to devise; 
Her yellow hair was braided in a tress, 
Behind her back, a yarde long I guess. 
And in the garden at *the sun uprist* 
She walketh up and down where as her list. 
She gathereth flowers, party* white and red. 
To make a sotel* garland for her head. 
And as an angel heavenly she sung. 
The greate tower, that was so thick and strong. 
Which of the castle was the chief dungeon< 10 > 
(Where as these knightes weren in prison. 
Of which I tolde you, and telle shall). 
Was even joinant* to the garden wall. 
There as this Emily had her playing. 

Bright was the sun, and clear that morrowning. 

And Palamon, this woful prisoner. 

As was his wont, by leave of his gaoler. 

Was ris'n, and roamed in a chamber on high. 

In which he all the noble city sigh*. 

And eke the garden, full of branches green. 

There as this fresh Emelia the sheen 

Was in her walk, and roamed up and down. 

This sorrowful prisoner, this Palamon 

Went in his chamber roaming to and fro. 

And to himself complaining of his woe: 

That he was born, full oft he said, Alas! 

And so befell, by aventure or cas*. 

That through a window thick of many a bar 

Of iron great, and square as any spar. 

He cast his eyes upon Emelia, 

subtle, well-arranged 



And therewithal he blent* and cried. Ah! 
As though he stungen were unto the heart. 
And with that cry Arcite anon up start. 
And saide, "Cousin mine, what aileth thee. 
That art so pale and deadly for to see? 
Why cried'st thou? who hath thee done offence? 
For Godde's love, take all in patience 
Our prison*, for it may none other be. 
Fortune hath giv'n us this adversity'. 
Some wick'* aspect or disposition 
Of Saturn< 1 1 > , by some constellation. 
Hath giv'n us this, although we had it sworn. 
So stood the heaven when that we were born. 
We must endure; this is the short and plain. 

This Palamon answer'd, and said again: 

"Cousin, forsooth of this opinion 

Thou hast a vain imagination. 

This prison caused me not for to cry; 

But I was hurt right now thorough mine eye 

Into mine heart; that will my bane* be. 

The fairness of the lady that I see 

Yond in the garden roaming to and fro. 

Is cause of all my crying and my woe. 

I *n'ot wher* she be woman or goddess. 

But Venus is it, soothly* as I guess. 

And therewithal on knees adown he fill. 

And saide: "Venus, if it be your will 

You in this garden thus to transfigure 

Before me sorrowful wretched creature. 

Out of this prison help that we may scape. 

And if so be our destiny be shape 

By etern word to dien in prison. 

Of our lineage have some compassion. 

*started aside 




*know not whether* 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

That is so low y-brought by tyranny." 

And with that word Arcita *gan espy* *began to look forth* 

Where as this lady roamed to and fro 

And with that sight her beauty hurt him so, 

That if that Palamon was wounded sore, 

Arcite is hurt as much as he, or more. 

And with a sigh he saide piteously: 

"The freshe beauty slay'th me suddenly 

Of her that roameth yonder in the place. 

And but* I have her mercy and her grace, *unless 

That I may see her at the leaste way, 

I am but dead; there is no more to say." 

This Palamon, when he these wordes heard, 

Dispiteously* he looked, and answer'd: *angrily 

"Whether say'st thou this in earnest or in play?" 

"Nay," quoth Arcite, "in earnest, by my fay*. *faith 

God help me so, *me lust full ill to play*." *I am in no humour 

This Palamon gan knit his browes tway. for jesting* 

"It were," quoth he, "to thee no great honour 

For to be false, nor for to be traitour 

To me, that am thy cousin and thy brother 

Y-sworn full deep, and each of us to other. 

That never for to dien in the pain <12>, 

Till that the death departen shall us twain. 

Neither of us in love to hinder other. 

Nor in none other case, my leve* brother; *dear 

But that thou shouldest truly farther me 

In every case, as I should farther thee. 

This was thine oath, and mine also certain; 

I wot it well, thou dar'st it not withsayn*, *deny 

Thus art thou of my counsel out of doubt. 

And now thou wouldest falsely be about 

To love my lady, whom I love and serve, 

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And ever shall, until mine hearte sterve* 
Now certes, false Arcite, thou shalt not so 
I lov'd her first, and tolde thee my woe 
As to my counsel, and my brother sworn 
To farther me, as I have told beforn. 
For which thou art y-bounden as a knight 
To helpe me, if it lie in thy might. 
Or elles art thou false, I dare well sayn," 



This Arcita full proudly spake again: 

"Thou shalt," quoth he, "be rather* false than I, *sooner 

And thou art false, I tell thee utterly; 

For par amour I lov'd her first ere thou. 

What wilt thou say? *thou wist it not right now* *even now thou 

Whether she be a woman or goddess. knowest not* 

Thine is affection of holiness. 

And mine is love, as to a creature: 

For which I tolde thee mine aventure 

As to my cousin, and my brother sworn 

I pose*, that thou loved'st her beforn: *suppose 

Wost* thou not well the olde clerke's saw< 13 >, *know'st 

That who shall give a lover any law? 

Love is a greater lawe, by my pan. 

Than maybe giv'n to any earthly man: 

Therefore positive law, and such decree. 

Is broke alway for love in each degree 

A man must needes love, maugre his head. 

He may not flee it, though he should be dead, 

*A11 be she* maid, or widow, or else wife. *whether she be* 

And eke it is not likely all thy life 

To standen in her grace, no more than I 

For well thou wost thyselfe verily. 

That thou and I be damned to prison 

Perpetual, us gaineth no ranson. 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

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We strive, as did the houndes for the bone; 
They fought all day, and yet their part was none. 
There came a kite, while that they were so wroth. 
And bare away the bone betwixt them both. 
And therefore at the kinge's court, my brother. 
Each man for himselfe, there is no other. 
Love if thee list; for I love and aye shall 
And soothly, leve brother, this is all. 
Here in this prison musten we endure. 
And each of us take his Aventure." 

Great was the strife and long between these tway. 

If that I hadde leisure for to say; 

But to the effect: it happen'd on a day 

(To tell it you as shortly as I may), 

A worthy duke that hight Perithous< 14> 

That fellow was to the Duke Theseus 

Since thilke* day that they were children lite** 

Was come to Athens, his fellow to visite. 

And for to play, as he was wont to do; 

For in this world he loved no man so; 

And he lov'd him as tenderly again. 

So well they lov'd, as olde bookes sayn. 

That when that one was dead, soothly to sayn. 

His fellow went and sought him down in hell: 

But of that story list me not to write. 

Duke Perithous loved well Arcite, 

And had him known at Thebes year by year: 

And fmally at request and prayere 

Of Perithous, withoute ranson 

Duke Theseus him let out of prison. 

Freely to go, where him list over all. 

In such a guise, as I you tellen shall 

This was the forword*, plainly to indite. 

*that **little 


Betwixte Theseus and him Arcite: 

That if so were, that Arcite were y- found 

Ever in his life, by day or night, one stound* 

In any country of this Theseus, 

And he were caught, it was accorded thus. 

That with a sword he shoulde lose his head; 

There was none other remedy nor rede*. 

But took his leave, and homeward he him sped; 

Let him beware, his necke lieth *to wed*. 

How great a sorrow suff 'reth now Arcite! 

The death he feeleth through his hearte smite; 

He weepeth, waileth, crieth piteously; 

To slay himself he waiteth privily. 

He said; "Alas the day that I was born! 

Now is my prison worse than beforn: 

*Now is me shape* eternally to dwell * 

Not in purgatory, but right in hell. 

Alas! that ever I knew Perithous. 

For elles had I dwelt with Theseus 

Y-fettered in his prison evermo'. 

Then had I been in bliss, and not in woe. 

Only the sight of her, whom that I serve. 

Though that I never may her grace deserve. 

Would have sufficed right enough for me. 

O deare cousin Palamon," quoth he, 

"Thine is the vict'ry of this aventure. 

Full blissfully in prison to endure: 

In prison? nay certes, in paradise. 

Well hath fortune y-turned thee the dice. 

That hast the sight of her, and I th' absence. 

For possible is, since thou hast her presence. 

And art a knight, a worthy and an able. 

That by some cas*, since fortune is changeable. 



*in pledge* 

it is fixed for me* 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Thou may St to thy desire sometime attain. 
But I that am exiled, and barren 
Of alle grace, and in so great despair. 
That there n'is earthe, water, fire, nor air. 
Nor creature, that of them maked is. 
That may me helpe nor comfort in this. 
Well ought I *sterve in wanhope* and distress. 
Farewell my life, my lust*, and my gladness. 
Alas, *why plainen men so in commune 
Of purveyance of God*, or of Fortune, 
That giveth them full oft in many a guise 
Well better than they can themselves devise? 
Some man desireth for to have richess. 
That cause is of his murder or great sickness. 
And some man would out of his prison fain. 
That in his house is of his meinie* slain. 
Infmite harmes be in this mattere. 
We wot never what thing we pray for here. 
We fare as he that drunk is as a mouse. 
A drunken man wot well he hath an house. 
But he wot not which is the right way thither. 
And to a drunken man the way is slither*. 
And certes in this world so fare we. 
We seeke fast after felicity. 
But we go wrong full often truely. 
Thus we may sayen all, and namely* I, 
That ween'd*, and had a great opinion. 
That if I might escape from prison 
Then had I been in joy and perfect heal. 
Where now I am exiled from my weal. 
Since that I may not see you, Emily, 
I am but dead; there is no remedy." 

*die in despair* 
why do men so often complain 
of God's providence?* 

*servants <16> 



Upon that other side, Palamon, 

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When that he wist Arcita was agone. 

Much sorrow maketh, that the greate tower 

Resounded of his yelling and clamour 

The pure* fetters on his shinnes great *very < 17> 

Were of his bitter salte teares wet. 


"Alas!" quoth he, "Arcita, cousin mine. 

Of all our strife, God wot, the fruit is thine. 

Thou walkest now in Thebes at thy large. 

And of my woe thou *givest little charge*. *takest little heed* 

Thou mayst, since thou hast wisdom and manhead*, *manhood, courage 

Assemble all the folk of our kindred. 

And make a war so sharp on this country 

That by some aventure, or some treaty. 

Thou mayst have her to lady and to wife. 

For whom that I must needes lose my life. 

For as byway of possibility. 

Since thou art at thy large, of prison free. 

And art a lord, great is thine avantage. 

More than is mine, that sterve here in a cage. 

For I must weep and wail, while that I live. 

With all the woe that prison may me give. 

And eke with pain that love me gives also. 

That doubles all my torment and my woe." 

Therewith the fire of jealousy upstart 

Within his breast, and hent* him by the heart *seized 

So woodly*, that he like was to behold *madly 

The box-tree, or the ashes dead and cold. 

Then said; "O cruel goddess, that govern 

This world with binding of your word etern* *eternal 

And writen in the table of adamant 

Your parlement* and your eternal grant, *consultation 

What is mankind more *unto you y-hold* *by you esteemed 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Than is the sheep, that rouketh* in the fold! *lie huddled together 

For slain is man, right as another beast; 

And dwelleth eke in prison and arrest. 

And hath sickness, and great adversity. 

And oftentimes guilteless, pardie* *by God 

What governance is in your prescience. 

That guilteless tormenteth innocence? 

And yet increaseth this all my penance. 

That man is bounden to his observance 

For Godde's sake to *letten of his will*, *restrain his desire* 

Whereas a beast may all his lust fulfd. 

And when a beast is dead, he hath no pain; 

But man after his death must weep and plain. 

Though in this worlde he have care and woe: 

Withoute doubt it maye standen so. 

"The answer of this leave I to divines. 

But well I wot, that in this world great pine* is; *pain, trouble 

Alas! I see a serpent or a thief 

That many a true man hath done mischief. 

Go at his large, and where him list may turn. 

But I must be in prison through Saturn, 

And eke through Juno, jealous and eke wood*, *mad 

That hath well nigh destroyed all the blood 

Of Thebes, with his waste walles wide. 

And Venus slay'th me on that other side 

For jealousy, and fear of him, Arcite." 

Now will I stent* of Palamon a lite**. 

And let him in his prison stille dwell. 

And of Arcita forth I will you tell. 

The summer passeth, and the nightes long 

Increase double-wise the paines strong 

Both of the lover and the prisonere. 

I n'ot* which hath the wofuller mistere**. 

*pause **little 

*know not **condition 

*on peril of his head* 

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For, shortly for to say, this Palamon 
Perpetually is damned to prison. 
In chaines and in fetters to be dead; 
And Arcite is exiled *on his head* 
For evermore as out of that country. 
Nor never more he shall his lady see. 
You lovers ask I now this question, < 1 8 > 
Who lieth the worse, Arcite or Palamon? 
The one may see his lady day by day. 
But in prison he dwelle must alway 
The other where him list may ride or go. 
But see his lady shall he never mo'. 
Now deem all as you liste, ye that can. 
For I will tell you forth as I began. 


taken away from him* 

When that Arcite to Thebes comen was. 

Full oft a day he swelt*, and said, "Alas!" *fainted 

For see this lady he shall never mo'. 

And shortly to concluden all his woe. 

So much sorrow had never creature 

That is or shall be while the world may dure. 

His sleep, his meat, his drink is *him byraft*. 

That lean he wex*, and dry as any shaft. 

His eyen hollow, grisly to behold. 

His hue sallow, and pale as ashes cold. 

And solitary he was, ever alone. 

And wailing all the night, making his moan. 

And if he hearde song or instrument. 

Then would he weepen, he might not be stent*. *stopped 

So feeble were his spirits, and so low. 

And changed so, that no man coulde know 

His speech, neither his voice, though men it heard. 

And in his gear* for all the world he far'd *behaviour < 19> 

Not only like the lovers' malady 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 



*rod <22> 


Of Eros, but rather y-like manie* 

Engender 'd of humours melancholic, 

Before his head in his cell fantastic. < 20 > 

And shortly turned was all upside down. 

Both habit and eke dispositioun. 

Of him, this woful lover Dan* Arcite. 

Why should I all day of his woe indite? 

When he endured had a year or two 

This cruel torment, and this pain and woe. 

At Thebes, in his country, as I said. 

Upon a night in sleep as he him laid. 

Him thought how that the winged god Mercury 

Before him stood, and bade him to be merry. 

His sleepy yard* in hand he bare upright; 

A hat he wore upon his haires bright. 

Arrayed was this god (as he took keep*) 

As he was when that Argus<23 > took his sleep; 

And said him thus: "To Athens shalt thou wend*; *go 

There is thee shapen* of thy woe an end." *fixed, prepared 

And with that word Arcite woke and start. 

"Now truely how sore that e'er me smart," 

Quoth he, "to Athens right now will I fare. 

Nor for no dread of death shall I not spare 

To see my lady that I love and serve; 

In her presence *I recke not to sterve.*" *do not care if I die* 

And with that word he caught a great mirror. 

And saw that changed was all his colour. 

And saw his visage all in other kind. 

And right anon it ran him ill his mind. 

That since his face was so disfigur'd 

Of malady the which he had endur'd. 

He mighte well, if that he *bare him low,* *lived in lowly fashion* 

Live in Athenes evermore unknow. 

And see his lady wellnigh day by day. 

secrets **fortune 

*nearest <24> 

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And right anon he changed his array. 

And clad him as a poore labourer. 

And all alone, save only a squier. 

That knew his privity* and all his cas**. 

Which was disguised poorly as he was. 

To Athens is he gone the nexte* way. 

And to the court he went upon a day. 

And at the gate he proffer'd his service. 

To drudge and draw, what so men would devise^ 

And, shortly of this matter for to sayn. 

He fell in office with a chamberlain. 

The which that dwelling was with Emily. 

For he was wise, and coulde soon espy 

Of every servant which that served her. 

Well could he hewe wood, and water bear. 

For he was young and mighty for the nones*. 

And thereto he was strong and big of bones 

To do that any wight can him devise. 



A year or two he was in this service. 

Page of the chamber of Emily the bright; 

And Philostrate he saide that he hight. 

But half so well belov'd a man as he 

Ne was there never in court of his degree. 

He was so gentle of conditioun. 

That throughout all the court was his renown. 

They saide that it were a charity 

That Theseus would *enhance his degree*. 

And put him in some worshipful service. 

There as he might his virtue exercise. 

And thus within a while his name sprung 

Both of his deedes, and of his good tongue. 

That Theseus hath taken him so near. 

That of his chamber he hath made him squire. 

*elevate him in rank* 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And gave him gold to maintain his degree; 

And eke men brought him out of his country 

From year to year full privily his rent. 

But honestly and slyly* he it spent, *discreetly, prudently 

That no man wonder'd how that he it had. 

And three year in this wise his life be lad*, *led 

And bare him so in peace and eke in werre*, *war 

There was no man that Theseus had so derre*. *dear 

And in this blisse leave I now Arcite, 

And speak I will of Palamon a lite*. *little 

In darkness horrible, and strong prison. 
This seven year hath sitten Palamon, 
Forpined*, what for love, and for distress. 
Who feeleth double sorrow and heaviness 
But Palamon? that love distraineth* so. 
That wood* out of his wits he went for woe. 
And eke thereto he is a prisonere 
Perpetual, not only for a year. 
Who coulde rhyme in English properly 
His martyrdom? forsooth*, it is not I; 
Therefore I pass as lightly as I may. 
It fell that in the seventh year, in May 
The thirde night (as olde bookes sayn. 
That all this story tellen more plain). 
Were it by a venture or destiny 
(As when a thing is shapen* it shall be). 
That soon after the midnight, Palamon 
By helping of a friend brake his prison. 
And fled the city fast as he might go. 
For he had given drink his gaoler so 
Of a clary <25>, made of a certain wine. 
With *narcotise and opie* of Thebes fme. 

*pined, wasted away 




*settled, decreed 

*narcotics and opium* 

That all the night, though that men would him shake. 

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P ittp:// 47 

The gaoler slept, he mighte not awake: 

And thus he fled as fast as ever he may. 

The night was short, and *faste by the day *close at hand was 

That needes cast he must himself to hide*. the day during which 

And to a grove faste there beside he must cast about, or contrive. 

With dreadful foot then stalked Palamon. 

For shortly this was his opinion. 

That in the grove he would him hide all day. 

And in the night then would he take his way 

To Thebes -ward, his friendes for to pray 

On Theseus to help him to warray*. 

And shortly either he would lose his life. 

Or winnen Emily unto his wife. 

This is th' effect, and his intention plain. 

to conceal himself.* 

*make war <26> 

Now will I turn to Arcita again. 
That little wist how nighe was his care. 
Till that Fortune had brought him in the snare. 
The busy lark, the messenger of day, 
Saluteth in her song the morning gray; 
And fiery Phoebus riseth up so bright. 
That all the orient laugheth at the sight. 
And with his streames* drieth in the greves** 
The silver droppes, hanging on the leaves; 
And Arcite, that is in the court royal 
With Theseus, his squier principal. 
Is ris'n, and looketh on the merry day. 
And for to do his observance to May, 
Remembering the point* of his desire. 
He on his courser, starting as the fire. 
Is ridden to the fieldes him to play. 
Out of the court, were it a mile or tway. 
And to the grove, of which I have you told. 
By a venture his way began to hold. 

rays groves 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

To make him a garland of the greves*, *groves 

Were it of woodbine, or of hawthorn leaves, 

And loud he sang against the sun so sheen*. *shining bright 

"O May, with all thy flowers and thy green. 

Right welcome be thou, faire freshe May, 

I hope that I some green here getten may" 

And from his courser*, with a lusty heart, *horse 

Into the grove full hastily he start. 

And in a path he roamed up and down. 

There as by aventure this Palamon 

Was in a bush, that no man might him see. 

For sore afeard of his death was he. 

Nothing ne knew he that it was Arcite; 

God wot he would have *trowed it full lite*. *full little believed it* 

But sooth is said, gone since full many years. 

The field hath eyen*, and the wood hath ears, *eyes 

It is full fair a man *to bear him even*, *to be on his guard* 

For all day meeten men at *unset Steven*. *unexpected time <27> 

Full little wot Arcite of his fellaw. 

That was so nigh to hearken of his saw*, *saying, speech 

For in the bush he sitteth now full still. 

When that Arcite had roamed all his fill. 

And *sungen all the roundel* lustily, *sang the roundelay*<28> 

Into a study he fell suddenly. 

As do those lovers in their *quainte gears*, *odd fashions* 

Now in the crop*, and now down in the breres**, <29> *tree-top 

Now up, now down, as bucket in a well. **briars 

Right as the Friday, soothly for to tell. 

Now shineth it, and now it raineth fast. 

Right so can geary* Venus overcast *changeful 

The heartes of her folk, right as her day 

Is gearful*, right so changeth she array. *changeful 

Seldom is Friday all the weeke like. 

When Arcite had y-sung, he gan to sike*, *sigh 

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And sat him down withouten any more: 

"Alas!" quoth he, "the day that I was bore! 

How longe, Juno, through thy cruelty 

Wilt thou warrayen* Thebes the city? *torment 

Alas! y-brought is to confusion 

The blood royal of Cadm' and Amphion: 

Of Cadmus, which that was the firste man. 

That Thebes built, or first the town began. 

And of the city first was crowned king. 

Of his lineage am I, and his offspring 

By very line, as of the stock royal; 

And now I am *so caitiff and so thrall*. 

That he that is my mortal enemy, 

I serve him as his squier poorely. 

And yet doth Juno me well more shame. 

For I dare not beknow* mine owen name. 

But there as I was wont to hight Arcite, 

Now hight I Philostrate, not worth a mite. 

Alas! thou fell Mars, and alas! Juno, 

Thus hath your ire our lineage all fordo* 

Save only me, and wretched Palamon, 

That Theseus martyreth in prison. 

And over all this, to slay me utterly. 

Love hath his fiery dart so brenningly* *burningly 

Y-sticked through my true careful heart. 

That shapen was my death erst than my shert. <31 > 

Ye slay me with your eyen, Emily; 

Ye be the cause wherefore that I die. 

Of all the remnant of mine other care 

Ne set I not the *mountance of a tare*, *value of a straw* 

So that I could do aught to your pleasance." 

*wretched and enslaved* 

*acknowledge <30> 

*undone, ruined 

And with that word he fell down in a trance 
A longe time; and afterward upstart 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

This Palamon, that thought thorough his heart 

He felt a cold sword suddenly to glide: 

For ire he quoke*, no longer would he hide. 

And when that he had heard Arcite's tale, 

As he were wood*, with face dead and pale. 

He start him up out of the bushes thick. 

And said: "False Arcita, false traitor wick'*. 

Now art thou hent*, that lov'st my lady so. 

For whom that I have all this pain and woe. 

And art my blood, and to my counsel sworn. 

As I full oft have told thee herebeforn. 

And hast bejaped* here Duke Theseus, * 

And falsely changed hast thy name thus; 

I will be dead, or elles thou shalt die. 

Thou shalt not love my lady Emily, 

But I will love her only and no mo'; 

For I am Palamon thy mortal foe. 

And though I have no weapon in this place. 

But out of prison am astart* by grace, 

I dreade* not that either thou shalt die. 

Or else thou shalt not loven Emily. 

Choose which thou wilt, for thou shalt not astart. 




^deceived, imposed upon 


This Arcite then, with full dispiteous* heart. 

When he him knew, and had his tale heard. 

As fierce as lion pulled out a swerd. 

And saide thus; "By God that sitt'th above, 

*N'ere it* that thou art sick, and wood for love. 

And eke that thou no weap'n hast in this place. 

Thou should'st never out of this grove pace. 

That thou ne shouldest dien of mine hand. 

For I defy the surety and the band. 

Which that thou sayest I have made to thee. 

What? very fool, think well that love is free; 


were it not 

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And I will love her maugre* all thy might. 
But, for thou art a worthy gentle knight. 
And *wilnest to darraine her by bataille*. 
Have here my troth, to-morrow I will not fail. 
Without weeting* of any other wight. 
That here I will be founden as a knight. 
And bringe harness* right enough for thee; 
And choose the best, and leave the worst for me. 
And meat and drinke this night will I bring 
Enough for thee, and clothes for thy bedding. 
And if so be that thou my lady win. 
And slay me in this wood that I am in. 
Thou may'st well have thy lady as for me." 
This Palamon answer'd, "I grant it thee." 
And thus they be departed till the morrow. 
When each of them hath *laid his faith to borrow' 


Will reclaim her 

by combat* 

*armour and arms 

*pledged his faith* 

O Cupid, out of alle charity! 
O Regne* that wilt no fellow have with thee! 
Full sooth is said, that love nor lordeship 
Will not, *his thanks*, have any fellowship. 
Well finden that Arcite and Palamon. 
Arcite is ridd anon unto the town. 
And on the morrow, ere it were daylight. 
Full privily two harness hath he dight*. 
Both suffisant and meete to darraine* 
The battle in the field betwixt them twain. 
And on his horse, alone as he was born. 
He carrieth all this harness him beforn; 
And in the grove, at time and place y-set. 
This Arcite and this Palamon be met. 
Then change gan the colour of their face; 
Right as the hunter in the regne* of Thrace 
That standeth at a gappe with a spear 

*queen <32> 
*thanks to him* 




Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

When hunted is the lion or the bear, 
And heareth him come rushing in the greves*, 
And breaking both the boughes and the leaves, 
Thinketh, "Here comes my mortal enemy, 
Withoute fail, he must be dead or I; 
For either I must slay him at the gap; 
Or he must slay me, if that me mishap:" 
So fared they, in changing of their hue 
*As far as either of them other knew*. 
There was no good day, and no saluting. 
But straight, withoute wordes rehearsing, 
Evereach of them holp to arm the other. 
As friendly, as he were his owen brother. 
And after that, with sharpe speares strong 
They foined* each at other wonder long. 
Thou mightest weene*, that this Palamon 
In fighting were as a wood* lion. 
And as a cruel tiger was Arcite: 
As wilde boars gan they together smite. 
That froth as white as foam, *for ire wood' 
Up to the ancle fought they in their blood. 
And in this wise I let them fighting dwell. 
And forth I will of Theseus you tell. 


When they recognised each 
other afar ofP 


*mad with anger* 

The Destiny, minister general. 

That executeth in the world o'er all 

The purveyance*, that God hath seen beforn; 

So strong it is, that though the world had sworn 

The contrary of a thing by yea or nay. 

Yet some time it shall fallen on a day 

That falleth not eft* in a thousand year. 

For certainly our appetites here. 

Be it of war, or peace, or hate, or love. 

All is this ruled by the sight* above. *eye, intelligence, power 



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This mean I now by mighty Theseus, 

That for to hunten is so desirous — 

And namely* the greate hart in May — 

That in his bed there dawneth him no day 

That he n'is clad, and ready for to ride 

With hunt and horn, and houndes him beside. 

For in his hunting hath he such delight. 

That it is all his joy and appetite 

To be himself the greate harte's bane* 

For after Mars he serveth now Diane. 

Clear was the day, as I have told ere this. 

And Theseus, with alle joy and bliss. 

With his Hippolyta, the faire queen. 

And Emily, y-clothed all in green. 

On hunting be they ridden royally. 

And to the grove, that stood there faste by. 

In which there was an hart, as men him told, 

Duke Theseus the straighte way doth hold. 

And to the laund* he rideth him full right. 

There was the hart y-wont to have his flight. 

And over a brook, and so forth on his way. 

This Duke will have a course at him or tway 

With houndes, such as him lust* to command. 

And when this Duke was come to the laund. 

Under the sun he looked, and anon 

He was ware of Arcite and Palamon, 

That foughte breme*, as it were bulles two. 

The brighte swordes wente to and fro 

So hideously, that with the leaste stroke 

It seemed that it woulde fell an oak. 

But what they were, nothing yet he wote*. 

This Duke his courser with his spurres smote, 

*And at a start* he was betwixt them two. 

And pulled out a sword and cried, "Ho! 



*plain <33> 





Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

No more, on pain of losing of your head. 

By mighty Mars, he shall anon be dead 

That smiteth any stroke, that I may see! 

But tell to me what mister* men ye be, *manner, kind <34> 

That be so hardy for to fighte here 

Withoute judge or other officer. 

As though it were in listes royally <35> 

This Palamon answered hastily. 

And saide: "Sir, what needeth wordes mo'? 

We have the death deserved bothe two. 

Two woful wretches be we, and caitives. 

That be accumbered* of our own lives, *burdened 

And as thou art a rightful lord and judge. 

So give us neither mercy nor refuge. 

And slay me first, for sainte charity. 

But slay my fellow eke as well as me. 

Or slay him first; for, though thou know it lite*, *little 

This is thy mortal foe, this is Arcite 

That from thy land is banisht on his head. 

For which he hath deserved to be dead. 

For this is he that came unto thy gate 

And saide, that he highte Philostrate. 

Thus hath he japed* thee full many year, *deceived 

And thou hast made of him thy chief esquier; 

And this is he, that loveth Emily. 

For since the day is come that I shall die 

I make pleinly* my confession, *fully, unreservedly 

That I am thilke* woful Palamon, *that same <36> 

That hath thy prison broken wickedly. 

I am thy mortal foe, and it am I 

That so hot loveth Emily the bright. 

That I would die here present in her sight. 

Therefore I aske death and myjewise*. *judgement 

But slay my fellow eke in the same wise. 

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For both we have deserved to be slain." 

This worthy Duke answer 'd anon again. 

And said, "This is a short conclusion. 

Your own mouth, by your own confession 

Hath damned you, and I will it record; 

It needeth not to pain you with the cord; 

Ye shall be dead, by mighty Mars the Red.<37> 

The queen anon for very womanhead 

Began to weep, and so did Emily, 

And all the ladies in the company. 

Great pity was it as it thought them all. 

That ever such a chance should befall. 

For gentle men they were, of great estate. 

And nothing but for love was this debate 

They saw their bloody woundes wide and sore. 

And cried all at once, both less and more, 

"Have mercy. Lord, upon us women all." 

And on their bare knees adown they fall 

And would have kissed his feet there as he stood. 

Till at the last *aslaked was his mood* *his anger was 

(For pity runneth soon in gentle heart); appeased* 

And though at first for ire he quoke and start 

He hath consider 'd shortly in a clause 

The trespass of them both, and eke the cause: 

And although that his ire their guilt accused 

Yet in his reason he them both excused; 

As thus; he thoughte well that every man 

Will help himself in love if that he can. 

And eke deliver himself out of prison. 

Of women, for they wepten ever-in-one:* *continually 

And eke his hearte had compassion 

And in his gentle heart he thought anon. 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And soft unto himself he saide: "Fie 

Upon a lord that will have no mercy, 

But be a lion both in word and deed, 

To them that be in repentance and dread. 

As well as-to a proud dispiteous* man *unpitying 

That will maintaine what he first began. 

That lord hath little of discretion. 

That in such case *can no division*: *can make no distinction* 

But weigheth pride and humbless *after one*." *alike* 

And shortly, when his ire is thus agone. 

He gan to look on them with eyen light*, *gentle, lenient* 

And spake these same wordes *all on height.* *aloud* 

*bless ye him 

*avail, conquer 


"The god of love, ah! benedicite*. 

How mighty and how great a lord is he! 

Against his might there gaine* none obstacles. 

He may be called a god for his miracles 

For he can maken at his owen guise 

Of every heart, as that him list devise. 

Lo here this Arcite, and this Palamon, 

That quietly were out of my prison. 

And might have lived in Thebes royally. 

And weet* I am their mortal enemy. 

And that their death li'th in my might also. 

And yet hath love, *maugre their eyen two*, *in spite of their eyes* 

Y-brought them hither bothe for to die. 

Now look ye, is not this an high folly? 

Who may not be a fool, if but he love? 

Behold, for Godde's sake that sits above. 

See how they bleed! be they not well array 'd? 

Thus hath their lord, the god of love, them paid 

Their wages and their fees for their service; 

And yet they weene for to be full wise. 

That serve love, for aught that may befall. 

*hot behaviour* 

*long years ago* 

*snare <38> 

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But this is yet the beste game* of all, *joke 

That she, for whom they have this jealousy. 

Can them therefor as muchel thank as me. 

She wot no more of all this *hote fare*. 

By God, than wot a cuckoo or an hare. 

But all must be assayed hot or cold; 

A man must be a fool, or young or old; 

I wot it by myself *full yore agone*: 

For in my time a servant was I one. 

And therefore since I know of love's pain. 

And wot how sore it can a man distrain*. 

As he that oft hath been caught in his last*, 

I you forgive wholly this trespass. 

At request of the queen that kneeleth here. 

And eke of Emily, my sister dear. 

And ye shall both anon unto me swear. 

That never more ye shall my country dere* 

Nor make war upon me night nor day. 

But be my friends in alle that ye may. 

I you forgive this trespass *every deal*. *completely* 

And they him sware *his asking* fair and well, *what he asked* 

And him of lordship and of mercy pray 'd. 

And he them granted grace, and thus he said: 

"To speak of royal lineage and richess. 

Though that she were a queen or a princess. 

Each of you both is worthy doubteless 

To wedde when time is; but natheless 

I speak as for my sister Emily, 

For whom ye have this strife and jealousy. 

Ye wot* yourselves, she may not wed the two *know 

At once, although ye fight for evermo: 

But one of you, *all be him loth or lief,* *whether or not he wishes* 

He must *go pipe into an ivy leaP: *"go whistle"* 




Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

*as is decreed for him* 


*he pleases 

*contend for 

This is to say, she may not have you both, 

All be ye never so jealous, nor so wroth. 

And therefore I you put in this degree. 

That each of you shall have his destiny 

As *him is shape*; and hearken in what wise 

Lo hear your end of that I shall devise. 

My will is this, for plain conclusion 

Withouten any replication*. 

If that you liketh, take it for the best. 

That evereach of you shall go where *him lest*. 

Freely without ransom or danger; 

And this day fifty weekes, *farre ne nerre*, *neither more nor less^ 

Evereach of you shall bring an hundred knights. 

Armed for listes up at alle rights 

All ready to darraine* her by bataille. 

And this behete* I you withoute fail 

Upon my troth, and as I am a knight. 

That whether of you bothe that hath might. 

That is to say, that whether he or thou 

May with his hundred, as I spake of now. 

Slay his contrary, or out of listes drive. 

Him shall I given Emily to wive. 

To whom that fortune gives so fair a grace. 

The listes shall I make here in this place. 

*And God so wisly on my soule rue*. 

As I shall even judge be and true. 

Ye shall none other ende with me maken 

Than one of you shalle be dead or taken. 

And if you thinketh this is well y-said. 

Say your advice*, and hold yourselves apaid* 

This is your end, and your conclusion." 

Who looketh lightly now but Palamon? 

Who springeth up for joye but Arcite? 

Who could it tell, or who could it indite. 

may God as surely have 
mercy on my soul* 

*opinion **satisfied 

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The joye that is maked in the place 

When Theseus hath done so fair a grace? 

But down on knees went every *manner wight*, *kind of person* 

And thanked him with all their heartes' might. 

And namely* these Thebans *ofte sithe*. *especially *oftentimes* 

And thus with good hope and with hearte blithe 

They take their leave, and homeward gan they ride 

To Thebes-ward, with his old walles wide. 

I trow men woulde deem it negligence. 
If I forgot to telle the dispence* 
Of Theseus, that went so busily 
To maken up the listes royally. 
That such a noble theatre as it was, 
I dare well say, in all this world there n'as*. 
The circuit a mile was about. 
Walled of stone, and ditched all without. 
*Round was the shape, in manner of compass. 
Full of degrees, the height of sixty pas* 
That when a man was set on one degree 
He letted* not his fellow for to see. 
Eastward there stood a gate of marble white. 
Westward right such another opposite. 
And, shortly to conclude, such a place 
Was never on earth made in so little space. 
For in the land there was no craftes-man. 
That geometry or arsmetrike* can**. 
Nor pourtrayor*, nor carver of images. 
That Theseus ne gave him meat and wages 
The theatre to make and to devise. 
And for to do his rite and sacrifice 
He eastward hath upon the gate above. 
In worship of Venus, goddess of love, 
*Done make* an altar and an oratory; 


*was not 

*seenote <39>* 

*arithmetic **knew 
*portrait painter 

*caused to be made* 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And westward, in the mind and in memory 

Of Mars, he maked hath right such another. 

That coste largely of gold a fother*. *a great amount 

And northward, in a turret on the wall. 

Of alabaster white and red coral 

An oratory riche for to see. 

In worship of Diane of chastity. 

Hath Theseus done work in noble wise. 

But yet had I forgotten to devise* *describe 

The noble carving, and the portraitures. 

The shape, the countenance of the figures 

That weren in there oratories three. 

First in the temple of Venus may'st thou see 

Wrought on the wall, full piteous to behold. 

The broken sleepes, and the sikes* cold, *sighes 

The sacred teares, and the waimentings*, *lamentings 

The fiery strokes of the desirings. 

That Love s servants in this life endure; 

The oathes, that their covenants assure. 

Pleasance and Hope, Desire, Foolhardiness, 

Beauty and Youth, and Bawdry and Richess, 

Charms and Sorc'ry, Leasings* and Flattery, *falsehoods 

Dispence, Business, and Jealousy, 

That wore of yellow goldes* a garland, *sunflowers <40> 

And had a cuckoo sitting on her hand. 

Feasts, instruments, and caroles and dances. 

Lust and array, and all the circumstances 

Of Love, which I reckon'd and reckon shall 

In order, were painted on the wall. 

And more than I can make of mention. 

For soothly all the mount of Citheron,<41> 

Where Venus hath her principal dwelling. 

Was showed on the wall in pourtraying. 

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With all the garden, and the lustiness*. *pleasantness 

Nor was forgot the porter Idleness, 

Nor Narcissus the fair of *yore agone*, *olden times* 

Nor yet the folly of King Solomon, 

Nor yet the greate strength of Hercules, 

Th' enchantments of Medea and Circes, 

Nor of Turnus the hardy fierce courage. 

The rich Croesus *caitif in servage.* <42> *abased into slavery* 

Thus may ye see, that wisdom nor richess. 

Beauty, nor sleight, nor strength, nor hardiness 

Ne may with Venus holde champartie*, *divided possession < 43 > 

For as her liste the world may she gie*. *guide 

Lo, all these folk so caught were in her las* *snare 

Till they for woe full often said, Alas! 

Suffice these ensamples one or two. 

Although I could reckon a thousand mo'. 

The statue of Venus, glorious to see 
Was naked floating in the large sea. 
And from the navel down all cover'd was 
With waves green, and bright as any glass. 
A citole <44> in her right hand hadde she. 
And on her head, full seemly for to see, 
A rose garland fresh, and well smelling. 
Above her head her doves flickering 
Before her stood her sone Cupido, 
Upon his shoulders winges had he two; 
And blind he was, as it is often seen; 
A bow he bare, and arrows bright and keen. 

Why should I not as well eke tell you all 

The portraiture, that was upon the wall 

Within the temple of mighty Mars the Red? 

All painted was the wall in length and brede* *breadth 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Like to the estres* of the grisly place *interior chambers 

That hight the great temple of Mars in Thrace, 

In thilke* cold and frosty region, *that 

There as Mars hath his sovereign mansion. 

In which there dwelled neither man nor beast. 

With knotty gnarry* barren trees old *gnarled 

Of stubbes sharp and hideous to behold; 

In which there ran a rumble and a sough*, *groaning noise 

As though a storm should bursten every bough: 

And downward from an hill under a bent* *slope 

There stood the temple of Mars Armipotent, 

Wrought all of burnish'd steel, of which th' entry 

Was long and strait, and ghastly for to see. 

And thereout came *a rage and such a vise*, *such a furious voice* 

That it made all the gates for to rise. 

The northern light in at the doore shone. 

For window on the walle was there none 

Through which men mighten any light discern. 

The doors were all of adamant etern, 

Y-clenched *overthwart and ende-long* *crossways and lengthways* 

With iron tough, and, for to make it strong. 

Every pillar the temple to sustain 

Was tunne-great*, of iron bright and sheen. *thick as a tun (barrel) 

There saw I first the dark imagining 

Of felony, and all the compassing; 

The cruel ire, as red as any glede*, *live coal 

The picke-purse<45>, and eke the pale dread; 

The smiler with the knife under the cloak. 

The shepen* burning with the blacke smoke *stable <46> 

The treason of the murd'ring in the bed. 

The open war, with woundes all be-bled; 

Conteke* with bloody knife, and sharp menace. *contention, discord 

All full of chirking* was that sorry place. *creaking, jarring noise 

The slayer of himself eke saw I there. 

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His hearte-blood had bathed all his hair: 

The nail y-driven in the shode* at night, *hair of the head <47> 

The colde death, with mouth gaping upright. 

Amiddes of the temple sat Mischance, 

With discomfort and sorry countenance; 

Eke saw I Woodness* laughing in his rage, *Madness 

Armed Complaint, Outhees*, and fierce Outrage; *Outcry 

The carrain* in the bush, with throat y-corve**, 
A thousand slain, and not *of qualm y-storve*; 
The tyrant, with the prey by force y-reft; 
The town destroy 'd, that there was nothing left. 
Yet saw I brent* the shippes hoppesteres, <48> 
The hunter strangled with the wilde bears: 
The sow freting* the child right in the cradle; 
The cook scalded, for all his longe ladle. 
Nor was forgot, *by th'infortune of Mart* 
The carter overridden with his cart; 
Under the wheel full low he lay adown. 
There were also of Mars' division. 
The armourer, the bowyer*, and the smith. 
That forgeth sharp swordes on his stith*. 
And all above depainted in a tower 
Saw I Conquest, sitting in great honour. 
With thilke* sharpe sword over his head 
Hanging by a subtle y-twined thread. 
Painted the slaughter was ofjulius<50>. 
Of cruel Nero, and Antonius: 
Although at that time they were yet unborn. 
Yet was their death depainted there beforn. 
By menacing of Mars, right by figure. 
So was it showed in that portraiture. 
As is depainted in the stars above. 
Who shall be slain, or elles dead for love. 
Sufficeth one ensample in stories old. 

*corpse **slashed 
*dead of sickness* 


*devouring <49> 

through the misfortune 
of war* 

*maker of bows 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

I may not reckon them all, though I wo 'Id. 

The statue of Mars upon a carte* stood 
Armed, and looked grim as he were wood*. 
And over his head there shone two figures 
Of starres, that be cleped in scriptures. 
That one Puella, that other Rubeus. <51> 
This god of armes was arrayed thus: 
A wolf there stood before him at his feet 
With eyen red, and of a man he eat: 
With subtle pencil painted was this story. 
In redouting* of Mars and of his glory. 

Now to the temple of Dian the chaste 
As shortly as I can I will me haste. 
To telle you all the descriptioun. 
Depainted be the walles up and down 
Of hunting and of shamefast chastity. 
There saw I how wo ful Calistope,<52> 
When that Dian aggrieved was with her. 
Was turned from a woman to a bear. 
And after was she made the lodestar*: 
Thus was it painted, I can say no far*; 
Her son is eke a star as men may see. 
There saw I Dane <53> turn'd into a tree, 
I meane not the goddess Diane, 
But Peneus' daughter, which that hight Dane. 
There saw I Actaeon an hart y-maked*. 
For vengeance that he saw Dian all naked: 
I saw how that his houndes have him caught. 
And freten* him, for that they knew him not. 
Yet painted was, a little farthermore 
How Atalanta hunted the wild boar; 
And Meleager, and many other mo'. 


*reverance, fear 

*pole star 



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For which Diana wrought them care and woe. 

There saw I many another wondrous story. 

The which me list not drawen to memory. 

This goddess on an hart full high was set*, *seated 

With smalle houndes all about her feet. 

And underneath her feet she had a moon. 

Waxing it was, and shoulde wane soon. 

In gaudy green her statue clothed was. 

With bow in hand, and arrows in a case*. *quiver 

Her eyen caste she full low adown. 

Where Pluto hath his darke regioun. 

A woman travailing was her beforn. 

But, for her child so longe was unborn. 

Full piteously Lucina <54> gan she call. 

And saide; "Help, for thou may'st best of all." 

Well could he painte lifelike that it wrought; 

With many a florin he the hues had bought. 

Now be these listes made, and Theseus, 

That at his greate cost arrayed thus 

The temples, and the theatre every deal*, *part <SS> 

When it was done, him liked wonder well. 

But stint* I will of Theseus a lite**, *cease speaking **little 

And speak of Palamon and of Arcite. 

The day approacheth of their returning. 

That evereach an hundred knights should bring. 

The battle to darraine* as I you told; 

And to Athens, their covenant to hold. 

Hath ev'reach of them brought an hundred knights. 

Well-armed for the war at alle rights. 

And sickerly* there trowed** many a man. 

That never, sithen* that the world began. 

For to speaken of knighthood of their hand. 

As far as God hath maked sea and land. 



^surely <56> **believed 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Was, of so few, so noble a company. 

For every wight that loved chivalry. 

And would, *his thankes, have a passant name*, *thanks to his own 

Had prayed, that he might be of that game, efforts, have a 

And well was him, that thereto chosen was. surpassing name* 

For if there fell to-morrow such a case. 

Ye knowe well, that every lusty knight. 

That loveth par amour, and hath his might 

Were it in Engleland, or elleswhere. 

They would, their thankes, willen to be there, 

T' fight for a lady; Benedicite, 

It were a lusty* sighte for to see. *pleasing 

And right so fared they with Palamon; 

With him there wente knightes many one. 

Some will be armed in an habergeon. 

And in a breast-plate, and in a gipon*; *short doublet. 

And some will have *a pair of plates* large; *back and front armour* 

And some will have a Prusse* shield, or targe; *Prussian 

Some will be armed on their legges weel; 

Some have an axe, and some a mace of steel. 

There is no newe guise*, but it was old. *fashion 

Armed they weren, as I have you told, 

Evereach after his opinion. 

There may'st thou see coming with Palamon 

Licurgus himself, the great king of Thrace: 

Black was his beard, and manly was his face. 

The circles of his eyen in his head 

They glowed betwixte yellow and red. 

And like a griffm looked he about. 

With kemped* haires on his browes stout; *combed<57> 

His limbs were great, his brawns were hard and strong. 

His shoulders broad, his armes round and long. 

And as the guise* was in his country, *fashion 

Full high upon a car of gold stood he. 

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With foure white bulles in the trace. 

Instead of coat-armour on his harness. 

With yellow nails, and bright as any gold. 

He had a beare's skin, coal-black for old*. *age 

His long hair was y-kempt behind his back. 

As any raven's feather it shone for black. 

A wreath of gold *arm-great*, of huge weight, *thick as a man's arm* 

Upon his head sate, full of stones bright. 

Of fme rubies and clear diamants. 

About his car there wente white alauns*, *greyhounds <58> 

Twenty and more, as great as any steer. 

To hunt the lion or the wilde bear. 

And follow'd him, with muzzle fast y-bound. 

Collars of gold, and torettes* filed round. *rings 

An hundred lordes had he in his rout* *retinue 

Armed full well, with heartes stern and stout. 

With Arcita, in stories as men find. 

The great Emetrius the king of Ind, 

Upon a *steede bay* trapped in steel. 

Cover 'd with cloth of gold diapred* well. 

Came riding like the god of armes. Mars. 

His coat-armour was of *a cloth of Tars*, 

Couched* with pearls white and round and great 

His saddle was of burnish'd gold new beat; 

A mantelet on his shoulders hanging, 

Bretful* of rubies red, as fire sparkling. 

His crispe hair like ringes was y-run. 

And that was yellow, glittering as the sun. 

His nose was high, his eyen bright citrine*. 

His lips were round, his colour was sanguine, 

A fewe fracknes* in his face y-sprent**, *freckles **sprinkled 

Betwixte yellow and black somedeal y-ment* *mixed <59 

And as a lion he *his looking cast* *cast about his eyes* 

*bay horse* 

*a kind of silk* 



*pale yellow 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Of five and twenty year his age I cast* *reckon 

His beard was well begunnen for to spring; 

His voice was as a trumpet thundering. 

Upon his head he wore of laurel green 

A garland fresh and lusty to be seen; 

Upon his hand he bare, for his delight, 

An eagle tame, as any lily white. 

An hundred lordes had he with him there. 

All armed, save their heads, in all their gear. 

Full richely in alle manner things. 

For trust ye well, that earles, dukes, and kings 

Were gather 'd in this noble company. 

For love, and for increase of chivalry. 

About this king there ran on every part 

Full many a tame lion and leopart. 

And in this wise these lordes *all and some* *all and sundry* 

Be on the Sunday to the city come 

Aboute prime<60>, and in the town alight. 

This Theseus, this Duke, this worthy knight 
When he had brought them into his city. 
And inned* them, ev'reach at his degree. 
He feasteth them, and doth so great labour 
To *easen them*, and do them all honour. 
That yet men weene* that no mannes wit 
Of none estate could amenden* it. 
The minstrelsy, the service at the feast. 
The greate giftes to the most and least. 
The rich array of Theseus' palace. 
Nor who sate first or last upon the dais. < 61 > 
What ladies fairest be, or best dancing 
Or which of them can carol best or sing. 
Or who most feelingly speaketh of love; 
What hawkes sitten on the perch above, 


*make them comfortable* 

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What houndes liggen* on the floor adown, *lie 

Of all this now make I no mentioun 

But of th'effect; that thinketh me the best 

Now comes the point, and hearken if you lest.* *please 


The Sunday night, ere day began to spring. 

When Palamon the larke hearde sing. 

Although it were not day by houres two. 

Yet sang the lark, and Palamon right tho* 

With holy heart, and with an high courage. 

Arose, to wenden* on his pilgrimage 

Unto the blissful Cithera benign, 

I meane Venus, honourable and digne*. 

And in her hour <62> he walketh forth a pace 

Unto the listes, where her temple was. 

And down he kneeleth, and with humble cheer* 

And hearte sore, he said as ye shall hear. 



"Fairest of fair, O lady mine Venus, 
Daughter to Jove, and spouse of Vulcanus, 
Thou gladder of the mount of Citheron!<41> 
For thilke love thou haddest to Adon <63> 
Have pity on my bitter teares smart. 
And take mine humble prayer to thine heart. 
Alas! I have no language to tell 
Th'effecte, nor the torment of mine hell; 
Mine hearte may mine harmes not betray; 
I am so confused, that I cannot say. 
But mercy, lady bright, that knowest well 
My thought, and seest what harm that I feel. 
Consider all this, and *rue upon* my sore. 
As wisly* as I shall for evermore 
Enforce my might, thy true servant to be. 
And holde war alway with chastity: 

*take pity on* 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

vow, promise 

*praise for valour* 

That make I mine avow*, so ye me help. 

I keepe not of armes for to yelp,* 

Nor ask I not to-morrow to have victory. 

Nor renown in this case, nor vaine glory 

Of *prize of armes*, blowing up and down. 

But I would have fully possessioun 

Of Emily, and die in her service; 

Find thou the manner how, and in what wise. 

I *recke not but* it may better be *do not know whether'' 

To have vict'ry of them, or they of me. 

So that I have my lady in mine arms. 

For though so be that Mars is god of arms. 

Your virtue is so great in heaven above. 

That, if you list, I shall well have my love. 

Thy temple will I worship evermo'. 

And on thine altar, where I ride or go, 

I will do sacrifice, and fires bete*. *make, kindle 

And if ye will not so, my lady sweet. 

Then pray I you, to-morrow with a spear 

That Arcita me through the hearte bear 

Then reck I not, when I have lost my life. 

Though that Arcita win her to his wife. 

This is th' effect and end of my prayere, — 

Give me my love, thou blissful lady dear." 

When th' orison was done of Palamon, 

His sacrifice he did, and that anon. 

Full piteously, with alle circumstances, 

*A11 tell I not as now* his observances. *although I tell not now' 

But at the last the statue of Venus shook. 

And made a signe, whereby that he took 

That his prayer accepted was that day. 

For though the signe shewed a delay. 

Yet wist he well that granted was his boon; 

And with glad heart he went him home full soon. 

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The third hour unequal <64> that Palamon 

Began to Venus' temple for to gon. 

Up rose the sun, and up rose Emily, 

And to the temple of Dian gan hie. 

Her maidens, that she thither with her lad*, *led 

Th' incense, the clothes, and the remnant all 

That to the sacrifice belonge shall. 

The homes full of mead, as was the guise; 

There lacked nought to do her sacrifice. 

Smoking* the temple full of clothes fair, *draping <65> 

This Emily with hearte debonnair* *gentle 

Her body wash'd with water of a well. 

But how she did her rite I dare not tell; 

But* it be any thing in general; *unless 

And yet it were a game* to hearen all *pleasure 

To him that meaneth well it were no charge: 

But it is good a man to *be at large*. *do as he will* 

Her bright hair combed was, untressed all. 

A coronet of green oak cerriall <66> 

Upon her head was set full fair and meet. 

Two fires on the altar gan she bete. 

And did her thinges, as men may behold 

In Stace of Thebes <67>, and these bookes old. 

When kindled was the fire, with piteous cheer 

Unto Dian she spake as ye may hear. 

"O chaste goddess of the woodes green. 

To whom both heav'n and earth and sea is seen. 

Queen of the realm of Pluto dark and low. 

Goddess of maidens, that mine heart hast know 

Full many a year, and wost* what I desire, *knowest 

To keep me from the vengeance of thine ire. 

That Actaeon aboughte* cruelly: *earned; suffered from 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Chaste goddess, well wottest thou that I 

Desire to be a maiden all my life, 

Nor never will I be no love nor wife. 

I am, thou wost*, yet of thy company, *knowest 

A maid, and love hunting and venery*, *field sports 

And for to walken in the woodes wild. 

And not to be a wife, and be with child. 

Nought will I know the company of man. 

Now help me, lady, since ye may and can. 

For those three formes <68> that thou hast in thee. 

And Palamon, that hath such love to me. 

And eke Arcite, that loveth me so sore. 

This grace I pray thee withoute more. 

As sende love and peace betwixt them two: 

And from me turn away their heartes so. 

That all their bote love, and their desire. 

And all their busy torment, and their fire. 

Be queint*, or turn'd into another place. *quenched 

And if so be thou wilt do me no grace. 

Or if my destiny be shapen so 

That I shall needes have one of them two. 

So send me him that most desireth me. 

Behold, goddess of cleane chastity. 

The bitter tears that on my cheekes fall. 

Since thou art maid, and keeper of us all. 

My maidenhead thou keep and well conserve. 

And, while I live, a maid I will thee serve. 

The fires burn upon the altar clear. 
While Emily was thus in her prayere: 
But suddenly she saw a sighte quaint*. 
For right anon one of the fire's *queint 
And quick'd* again, and after that anon 
That other fire was queint, and all agone: 

Vent out and revived* 

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And as it queint, it made a whisteling. 

As doth a brande wet in its burning. 

And at the brandes end outran anon 

As it were bloody droppes many one: 

For which so sore aghast was Emily, 

That she was well-nigh mad, and gan to cry. 

For she ne wiste what it signified; 

But onely for feare thus she cried. 

And wept, that it was pity for to hear. 

And therewithal Diana gan appear 

With bow in hand, right as an hunteress. 

And saide; "Daughter, stint* thine heaviness. *cease 

Among the goddes high it is affirm'd. 

And by eternal word writ and confirm'd. 

Thou shalt be wedded unto one of tho* *those 

That have for thee so muche care and woe: 

But unto which of them I may not tell. 

Farewell, for here I may no longer dwell. 

The fires which that on mine altar brenn*, *burn 

Shall thee declaren, ere that thou go henne*, *hence 

Thine aventure of love, as in this case." 

And with that word, the arrows in the case* *quiver 

Of the goddess did clatter fast and ring. 

And forth she went, and made a vanishing. 

For which this Emily astonied was. 

And saide; "What amounteth this, alas! 

I put me under thy protection, 

Diane, and in thy disposition." 

And home she went anon the nexte* way. *nearest 

This is th' effect, there is no more to say. 

The nexte hour of Mars following this 
Arcite to the temple walked is 
Of fierce Mars, to do his sacrifice 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

With all the rites of his pagan guise. 
With piteous* heart and high devotion 
Right thus to Mars he said his orison 
"O stronge god, that in the regnes* old 
Of Thrace honoured art, and lord y-hold* 
And hast in every regne, and every land 
Of armes all the bridle in thine hand. 
And *them fortunest as thee list devise*. 
Accept of me my piteous sacrifice. 
If so be that my youthe may deserve. 
And that my might be worthy for to serve 
Thy godhead, that I maybe one of thine. 
Then pray I thee to *rue upon my pine*. 
For thilke* pain, and thilke bote fire. 
In which thou whilom burned'st for desire 
Whenne that thou usedest* the beauty 
Of faire young Venus, fresh and free. 
And haddest her in armes at thy will: 
And though thee ones on a time misfill*. 
When Vulcanus had caught thee in his las*. 
And found thee ligging* by his wife, alas! 
For thilke sorrow that was in thine heart. 
Have ruth* as well upon my paine s smart. 
I am young and unconning*, as thou know'st. 
And, as I trow*, with love offended most 
That e'er was any living creature: 
For she, that doth* me all this woe endure, 
Ne recketh ne'er whether I sink or fleet* 
And well I wot, ere she me mercy hete*, 
I must with strengthe win her in the place: 
And well I wot, withoute help or grace 
Of thee, ne may my strengthe not avail: 
Then help me, lord, to-morr'w in my bataille. 
For thilke fire that whilom burned thee. 



*send them fortune 
as you please* 

*pity my anguish* 


*were unlucky 
*net <69> 

*ignorant, simple 

*promise, vouchsafe 

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As well as this fire that now burneth me; 

And do* that I to-morr'w may have victory. *cause 

Mine be the travail, all thine be the glory. 

Thy sovereign temple will I most honour 

Of any place, and alway most labour 

In thy pleasance and in thy craftes strong. 

And in thy temple I will my banner hong*, *hang 

And all the armes of my company. 

And evermore, until that day I die. 

Eternal fire I will before thee find 

And eke to this my vow I will me bind: 

My beard, my hair that hangeth long adown. 

That never yet hath felt offension* *indignity 

Of razor nor of shears, I will thee give. 

And be thy true servant while I live. 

Now, lord, have ruth upon my sorrows sore. 

Give me the victory, I ask no more." 


The prayer stint* of Arcita the strong. 
The ringes on the temple door that hong. 
And eke the doores, clattered full fast. 
Of which Arcita somewhat was aghast. 
The fires burn'd upon the altar bright. 
That it gan all the temple for to light; 
A sweete smell anon the ground up gaP, 
And Arcita anon his hand up haf , 
And more incense into the fire he cast. 
With other rites more and at the last 
The statue of Mars began his hauberk ring; 
And with that sound he heard a murmuring 
Full low and dim, that saide thus, "Victory." 
For which he gave to Mars honour and glory. 
And thus with joy, and hope well to fare, 
Arcite anon unto his inn doth fare. 




Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

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As fain* as fowl is of the brighte sun. *glad 

And right anon such strife there is begun 

For thilke* granting, in the heav'n above, *that 

Betwixte Venus the goddess of love. 

And Mars the sterne god armipotent. 

That Jupiter was busy it to stent*: *stop 

Till that the pale Saturnus the cold, < 70 > 

That knew so many of adventures old. 

Found in his old experience such an art. 

That he full soon hath pleased every part. 

As sooth is said, eld* hath great advantage. 

In eld is bothe wisdom and usage*: 

Men may the old out-run, but not out-rede*. 

Saturn anon, to stint the strife and drede. 

Albeit that it is against his kind,* 

Of all this strife gan a remedy fmd. 

"My deare daughter Venus," quoth Saturn, 

"My course*, that hath so wide for to turn. 

Hath more power than wot any man. 

Mine is the drowning in the sea so wan; 

Mine is the prison in the darke cote*, *cell 

Mine the strangling and hanging by the throat. 

The murmur, and the churlish rebelling. 

The groyning*, and the privy poisoning. *discontent 

I do vengeance and plein* correction, *full 

I dwell in the sign of the lion. 

Mine is the ruin of the highe halls. 

The falling of the towers and the walls 

Upon the miner or the carpenter: 

I slew Samson in shaking the pillar: 

Mine also be the maladies cold. 

The darke treasons, and the castes* old: *plots 

My looking is the father of pestilence. 





Now weep no more, I shall do diligence 

That Palamon, that is thine owen knight. 

Shall have his lady, as thou hast him hight*. 

Though Mars shall help his knight, yet natheless 

Betwixte you there must sometime be peace: 

All be ye not of one complexion. 

That each day causeth such division, 

I am thine ayel*, ready at thy will; 

Weep now no more, I shall thy lust* fulfil.' 

Now will I stenten* of the gods above. 

Of Mars, and of Venus, goddess of love. 

And telle you as plainly as I can 

The great effect, for which that I began. 


grandfather <72> 
*cease speaking 

Great was the feast in Athens thilke* day; 
And eke the lusty season of that May 
Made every wight to be in such pleasance. 
That all that Monday] ousten they and dance. 
And spenden it in Venus' high service. 
But by the cause that they shoulde rise 
Early a-morrow for to see that fight. 
Unto their reste wente they at night. 
And on the morrow, when the day gan spring. 
Of horse and harness* noise and clattering 
There was in the hostelries all about: 
And to the palace rode there many a rout* 
Of lordes, upon steedes and palfreys. 
There mayst thou see devising* of harness 
So uncouth* and so rich, and wrought so weel 
Of goldsmithry, of brouding*, and of steel; 
The shieldes bright, the testers*, and trappures*' 
Gold-hewen helmets, hauberks, coat-armures; 
Lordes in parements* on their coursers, 
Knightes of retinue, and eke squiers. 


train, retinue 

*unkown, rare 
*ornamental garb <74>; 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Nailing the spears, and helmes buckeling, 
Gniding* of shieldes, with lainers** lacing; 
There as need is, they were nothing idle: 
The foamy steeds upon the golden bridle 
Gnawing, and fast the armourers also 
With file and hammer pricking to and fro; 
Yeomen on foot, and knaves* many one 
With shorte staves, thick* as they may gon**; 
Pipes, trumpets, nakeres*, and clariouns. 
That in the battle blowe bloody souns; 
The palace full of people up and down. 
There three, there ten, holding their questioun*. 
Divining* of these Theban knightes two. 
Some saiden thus, some said it shall he so; 
Some helden with him with the blacke beard. 
Some with the bald, some with the thick-hair'd; 
Some said he looked grim, and woulde fight: 
He had a sparth* of twenty pound of weight. 
Thus was the halle full of divining* 
Long after that the sunne gan up spring. 
The great Theseus that of his sleep is waked 
With minstrelsy, and noise that was maked. 
Held yet the chamber of his palace rich. 
Till that the Theban knightes both y-lich* 
Honoured were, and to the palace fet*. 
Duke Theseus is at a window set. 
Array 'd right as he were a god in throne: 
The people presseth thitherward full soon 
Him for to see, and do him reverence. 
And eke to hearken his best* and his sentence**. 
An herald on a scaffold made an 0,<77> 
Till the noise of the people was y-do*: 
And when he saw the people of noise all still. 
Thus shewed he the mighty Duke's will. 

*polishing <75> 

*close **walk 
*drums <76> 


*double-headed axe 


*command **speech 

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arrange, contrive 

*kind of 

"The lord hath of his high discretion 

Considered that it were destruction 

To gentle blood, to fighten in the guise 

Of mortal battle now in this emprise: 

Wherefore to shape* that they shall not die. 

He will his firste purpose modify. 

No man therefore, on pain of loss of life. 

No manner* shot, nor poleaxe, nor short knife 

Into the lists shall send, or thither bring. 

Nor short sword for to stick with point biting 

No man shall draw, nor bear it by his side. 

And no man shall unto his fellow ride 

But one course, with a sharp y-grounden spear: 

*Foin if him list on foot, himself to wear. *He who wishes can 

And he that is at mischief shall be take*, fence on foot to defend 

And not slain, but be brought unto the stake, himself, and he that 

That shall be ordained on either side; is in peril shall be taken* 

Thither he shall by force, and there abide. 

And if *so fall* the chiefetain be take 

On either side, or elles slay his make*. 

No longer then the tourneying shall last. 

God speede you; go forth and lay on fast. 

With long sword and with mace fight your fill. 

Go now your way; this is the lordes will. 

The voice of the people touched the heaven. 

So loude cried they with merry Steven*: 

God save such a lord that is so good. 

He willeth no destruction of blood. 

*should happen* 
*equal, match 


Up go the trumpets and the melody. 

And to the listes rode the company 

*By ordinance*, throughout the city large. 

Hanged with cloth of gold, and not with sarge* 

Full like a lord this noble Duke gan ride. 

*in orderly array* 
*serge <78> 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And these twoThebans upon either side: 

*between 6 &9 a.m. 

And after rode the queen and Emily, 

And after them another company 

Of one and other, after their degree. 

And thus they passed thorough that city 

And to the listes came they by time: 

It was not of the day yet fully prime*. 

When set was Theseus full rich and high, 

Hippolyta the queen and Emily, 

And other ladies in their degrees about. 

Unto the seates presseth all the rout. 

And westward, through the gates under Mart, 

Arcite, and eke the hundred of his part. 

With banner red, is enter'd right anon; 

And in the selve* moment Palamon 

Is, under Venus, eastward in the place. 

With banner white, and hardy cheer* and face 

In all the world, to seeken up and down 

So even* without variatioun 

There were such companies never tway. 

For there was none so wise that coulde say 

That any had of other avantage 

Of worthiness, nor of estate, nor age. 

So even were they chosen for to guess. 

And *in two ranges faire they them dress*. *they arranged themselves 

When that their names read were every one, in two rows* 

That in their number guile* were there none, *fraud 

Then were the gates shut, and cried was loud; 

"Do now your devoir, younge knights proud 

The heralds left their pricking* up and down *spurring their horses 

Now ring the trumpet loud and clarioun. 

There is no more to say, but east and west 

In go the speares sadly* in the rest; *steadily 

*s elf- same 



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In go the sharpe spurs into the side. 

There see me who can joust, and who can ride. 

There shiver shaftes upon shieldes thick; 

He feeleth through the hearte-spoon<79> the prick. 

Up spring the speares twenty foot on height; 

Out go the swordes as the silver bright. 

The helmes they to-hewen, and to-shred*; *strike in pieces < 80> 

Out burst the blood, with sterne streames red. 

With mighty maces the bones they to-brest*. *burst 

He <81 > through the thickest of the throng gan threst*. *thrust 

There stumble steedes strong, and down go all. 

He rolleth under foot as doth a ball. 

He foineth* on his foe with a trunchoun. 

And he him hurtleth with his horse adown. 

He through the body hurt is, and *sith take*, 

Maugre his head, and brought unto the stake. 

As forword* was, right there he must abide. 

Another led is on that other side. 

And sometime doth* them Theseus to rest. 

Them to refresh, and drinken if them lest*. 

Full oft a day have thilke Thebans two 

Together met and wrought each other woe: 

Unhorsed hath each other of them tway* 

There is no tiger in the vale of Galaphay, <82> 

When that her whelp is stole, when it is lite* 

So cruel on the hunter, as Arcite 

For jealous heart upon this Palamon: 

Nor in Belmarie <83> there is no fell lion. 

That hunted is, or for his hunger wood* 

Or for his prey desireth so the blood. 

As Palamon to slay his foe Arcite. 

The jealous strokes upon their helmets bite; 

Out runneth blood on both their sides red. 

Sometime an end there is of every deed 


*forces himself 

*afterwards captured* 







Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

For ere the sun unto the reste went, 

The stronge king Emetrius gan hent* *sieze, assail 

This Palamon, as he fought with Arcite, 

And made his sword deep in his flesh to bite, 

And by the force of twenty is he take. 

Unyielding, and is drawn unto the stake. 

And in the rescue of this Palamon 

The stronge king Licurgus is borne down: 

And king Emetrius, for all his strength 

Is borne out of his saddle a sword's length. 

So hit him Palamon ere he were take: 

But all for nought; he was brought to the stake: 

His hardy hearte might him helpe naught. 

He must abide when that he was caught. 

By force, and eke by composition*. *the bargain 

Who sorroweth now but woful Palamon 

That must no more go again to fight? 

And when that Theseus had seen that sight 

Unto the folk that foughte thus each one. 

He cried. Ho! no more, for it is done! 

I will be true judge, and not party. 

Arcite of Thebes shall have Emily, 

That by his fortune hath her fairly won." 

Anon there is a noise of people gone. 

For joy of this, so loud and high withal. 

It seemed that the listes shoulde fall. 

What can now faire Venus do above? 

What saith she now? what doth this queen of love? 

But weepeth so, for wanting of her will. 

Till that her teares in the listes fill* *fall 

She said: "I am ashamed doubteless." 

Saturnus saide: "Daughter, hold thy peace. 

Mars hath his will, his knight hath all his boon. 

rides from end to end* 



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And by mine head thou shalt be eased soon." 

The trumpeters with the loud minstrelsy. 

The heralds, that full loude yell and cry. 

Be in their joy for weal of Dan* Arcite. *Lord 

But hearken me, and stinte noise a lite. 

What a miracle there befell anon 

This fierce Arcite hath off his helm y-done. 

And on a courser for to shew his face 

He *pricketh endelong* the large place. 

Looking upward upon this Emily; 

And she again him cast a friendly eye 

(For women, as to speaken *in commune*. 

They follow all the favour of fortune). 

And was all his in cheer*, as his in heart. 

Out of the ground a fire infernal start. 

From Pluto sent, at request of Saturn 

For which his horse for fear began to turn. 

And leap aside, and founder* as he leap *stumble 

And ere that Arcite may take any keep*, *care 

He pight* him on the pummel** of his head. *pitched **top 

That in the place he lay as he were dead. 

His breast to-bursten with his saddle-bow. 

As black he lay as any coal or crow. 

So was the blood y-run into his face. 

Anon he was y-borne out of the place 

With hearte sore, to Theseus' palace. 

Then was he carven* out of his harness. *cut 

And in a bed y-brought full fair and blive* *quickly 

For he was yet in mem'ry and alive. 

And always crying after Emily. 

Duke Theseus, with all his company. 
Is come home to Athens his city. 
With alle bliss and great solemnity. 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 



Albeit that this aventure was fall*, 

He woulde not discomforte* them all 

Then said eke, that Arcite should not die. 

He should be healed of his malady. 

And of another thing they were as fain*. 

That of them alle was there no one slain. 

All* were they sorely hurt, and namely** one, *although **especially 

That with a spear was thirled* his breast-bone. *pierced 

To other woundes, and to broken arms. 

Some hadden salves, and some hadden charms: 

And pharmacies of herbs, and eke save* *sage. Salvia officinalis 

They dranken, for they would their lives have. 

For which this noble Duke, as he well can, 

Comforteth and honoureth every man. 

And made revel all the longe night. 

Unto the strange lordes, as was right. 

Nor there was holden no discomforting. 

But as at jousts or at a tourneying; 

For soothly there was no discomfiture. 

For falling is not but an aventure*. *chance, accident 

Nor to be led by force unto a stake 

Unyielding, and with twenty knights y-take 

One person all alone, withouten mo'. 

And harried* forth by armes, foot, and toe, *dragged, hurried 

And eke his steede driven forth with staves. 

With footmen, bothe yeomen and eke knaves*, *servants 

It was *aretted him no villainy:* *counted no disgrace to him* 

There may no man *clepen it cowardy*. *call it cowardice* 

For which anon Duke Theseus *let cry*, — *caused to be proclaimed* 

To stenten* alle rancour and envy, — *stop 

The gree* as well on one side as the other, *prize, merit 

And either side alike as other's brother: 

And gave them giftes after their degree. 

And held a feaste fully dayes three: 

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And conveyed the kinges worthily 

Out of his town a journee* largely *day's journey 

And home went every man the righte way. 

There was no more but "Farewell, Have good day." 

Of this bataille I will no more indite 

But speak of Palamon and of Arcite. 

Swelleth the breast of Arcite and the sore 

Increaseth at his hearte more and more. 

The clotted blood, for any leache-craft* *surgical skill 

Corrupteth and is *in his bouk y-laft* *left in his body* 

That neither *veine blood nor ventousing*, *blood-letting or cupping* 

Nor drink of herbes may be his helping. 

The virtue expulsive or animal. 

From thilke virtue called natural. 

Nor may the venom voide, nor expel 

The pipes of his lungs began to swell 

And every lacert* in his breast adown *sinew, muscle 

Is shent* with venom and corruption. *destroyed 

Him gaineth* neither, for to get his life, *availeth 

Vomit upward, nor downward laxative; 

All is to-bursten thilke region; 

Nature hath now no domination. 

And certainly where nature will not wirch,* *work 

Farewell physic: go bear the man to chirch.* *church 

This all and some is, Arcite must die. 

For which he sendeth after Emily, 

And Palamon, that was his cousin dear. 

Then said he thus, as ye shall after hear. 

"Nought may the woful spirit in mine heart 
Declare one point of all my sorrows' smart 
To you, my lady, that I love the most: 
But I bequeath the service of my ghost 

Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

To you aboven every creature, 

Since that my life ne may no longer dure. 

Alas the woe! alas, the paines strong 

That I for you have suffered and so long! 

Alas the death, alas, mine Emily! 

Alas departing* of our company! *the severance 

Alas, mine hearte's queen! alas, my wife! 

Mine hearte's lady, ender of my life! 

What is this world? what aske men to have? 

Now with his love, now in his colde grave 

Al one, withouten any company. 

Farewell, my sweet, farewell, mine Emily, 

And softly take me in your armes tway. 

For love of God, and hearken what I say. 

I have here with my cousin Palamon 

Had strife and rancour many a day agone. 

For love of you, and for my jealousy. 

And Jupiter so *wis my soule gie*. 

To speaken of a servant properly. 

With alle circumstances truely. 

That is to say, truth, honour, and knighthead. 

Wisdom, humbless*, estate, and high kindred. 

Freedom, and all that longeth to that art. 

So Jupiter have of my soul part. 

As in this world right now I know not one. 

So worthy to be lov'd as Palamon, 

That serveth you, and will do all his life. 

And if that you shall ever be a wife. 

Forget not Palamon, the gentle man." 

And with that word his speech to fail began. 

For from his feet up to his breast was come 

The cold of death, that had him overnome*. *overcome 

And yet moreover in his armes two 

^surely guides my soul* 


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The vital strength is lost, and all ago*. *gone 

Only the intellect, withoute more. 

That dwelled in his hearte sick and sore, 

Gan faile, when the hearte felte death; 

Dusked* his eyen two, and fail'd his breath. *grew dim 

But on his lady yet he cast his eye; 

His laste word was; "Mercy, Emily!" 

His spirit changed house, and wente there. 

As I came never I cannot telle where. < 84 > 

Therefore I stent*, I am no divinister**; *refrain **diviner 

Of soules fmd I nought in this register. 

Ne me list not th' opinions to tell 

Of them, though that they writen where they dwell; 

Arcite is cold, there Mars his soule gie.* *guide 

Now will I speake forth of Emily. 

Shriek'd Emily, and howled Palamon, 

And Theseus his sister took anon 

Swooning, and bare her from the corpse away. 

What helpeth it to tarry forth the day. 

To telle how she wept both eve and morrow? 

For in such cases women have such sorrow. 

When that their husbands be from them y-go*, *gone 

That for the more part they sorrow so. 

Or elles fall into such malady. 

That at the laste certainly they die. 

Infinite be the sorrows and the tears 

Of olde folk, and folk of tender years. 

In all the town, for death of this Theban: 

For him there weepeth bothe child and man. 

So great a weeping was there none certain. 

When Hector was y-brought, all fresh y-slain. 

To Troy: alas! the pity that was there. 

Scratching of cheeks, and rending eke of hair. 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

" Why wouldest thou be dead?" these women cry, 

"And haddest gold enough, and Emily." 

No manner man might gladden Theseus, 

Saving his olde father Egeus, 

That knew this worlde's transmutatioun. 

As he had seen it changen up and down, 

Joy after woe, and woe after gladness; 

And shewed him example and likeness. 

"Right as there died never man," quoth he, 

"That he ne liv'd in earth in some degree*, *rank, condition 

Right so there lived never man," he said, 

"In all this world, that sometime be not died. 

This world is but a throughfare full of woe. 

And we be pilgrims, passing to and fro: 

Death is an end of every worldly sore." 

And over all this said he yet much more 

To this effect, full wisely to exhort 

The people, that they should them recomfort. 

Duke Theseus, with all his busy cure*, *care 

*Casteth about*, where that the sepulture *deliberates* 

Of good Arcite may best y-maked be. 

And eke most honourable in his degree. 

And at the last he took conclusion. 

That there as first Arcite and Palamon 

Hadde for love the battle them between. 

That in that selve* grove, sweet and green, *self-same 

There as he had his amorous desires. 

His complaint, and for love his bote fires. 

He woulde make a fire*, in which th' office *funeral pyre 

Of funeral he might all accomplice; 

And *let anon command* to hack and hew *immediately gave orders* 

The oakes old, and lay them *on a rew* *in a row* 

In culpons*, well arrayed for to brenne**. *logs **burn 

His officers with swifte feet they renne* *run 

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And ride anon at his commandement. 

And after this, Duke Theseus hath sent 

After a bier, and it all oversprad 

With cloth of gold, the richest that he had; 

And of the same suit he clad Arcite. 

Upon his handes were his gloves white. 

Eke on his head a crown of laurel green. 

And in his hand a sword full bright and keen. 

He laid him *bare the visage* on the bier, *with face uncovered* 

Therewith he wept, that pity was to hear. 

And, for the people shoulde see him all. 

When it was day he brought them to the hall. 

That roareth of the crying and the soun'. 

Then came this wofulTheban, Palamon, 

With sluttery beard, and ruggy ashy hairs, < 85 > 

In clothes black, y-dropped all with tears. 

And (passing over weeping Emily) 

The ruefullest of all the company. 

And *inasmuch as* the service should be *in order that* 

The more noble and rich in its degree, 

Duke Theseus let forth three steedes bring. 

That trapped were in steel all glittering. 

And covered with the arms of Dan Arcite. 

Upon these steedes, that were great and white. 

There satte folk, of whom one bare his shield. 

Another his spear in his handes held; 

The thirde bare with him his bowTurkeis*, *Turkish. 

Of brent* gold was the case** and the harness: *burnished **quiver 

And ride forth *a pace* with sorrowful cheer** *at a foot pace* 

Toward the grove, as ye shall after hear. **expression 

The noblest of the Greekes that there were 
Upon their shoulders carried the bier. 
With slacke pace, and eyen red and wet. 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Throughout the city, by the master* street, *main <86> 

That spread was all with black, and wondrous high 

Right of the same is all the street y-wrie.* *covered <87> 

Upon the right hand went old Egeus, 

And on the other side Duke Theseus, 

With vessels in their hand of gold full fme. 

All full of honey, milk, and blood, and wine; 

Eke Palamon, with a great company; 

And after that came woful Emily, 

With fire in hand, as was that time the guise*, *custom 

To do th' office of funeral service. 


*were called 

High labour, and full great appareling* *preparation 

Was at the service, and the pyre-making. 

That with its greene top the heaven raught*. 

And twenty fathom broad its armes straught*: 

This is to say, the boughes were so broad. 

Of straw first there was laid many a load. 

But how the pyre was maked up on height. 

And eke the names how the trees hight*. 

As oak, fir, birch, asp*, alder, holm, poplere, *aspen 

Willow, elm, plane, ash, box, chestnut, lind*, laurere, *linden, lime 

Maple, thorn, beech, hazel, yew, whipul tree. 

How they were fell'd, shall not be told for me; 

Nor how the goddes* rannen up and down *the forest deities 

Disinherited of their habitatioun. 

In which they wonned* had in rest and peace, *dwelt 

Nymphes, Faunes, and Hamadryades; 

Nor how the beastes and the birdes all 

Fledden for feare, when the wood gan fall; 

Nor how the ground aghast* was of the light, *terrified 

That was not wont to see the sunne bright; 

Nor how the fire was couched* first with stre**, *laid **straw 

And then with dry stickes cloven in three. 

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And then with greene wood and spicery*, *spices 

And then with cloth of gold and with pierrie*, *precious stones 

And garlands hanging with full many a flower. 

The myrrh, the incense with so sweet odour; 

Nor how Arcita lay among all this. 

Nor what richess about his body is; 

Nor how that Emily, as was the guise*, *custom 

*Put in the fire* of funeral service<88>; *appplied the torch* 

Nor how she swooned when she made the fire. 

Nor what she spake, nor what was her desire; 

Nor what jewels men in the fire then cast 

When that the fire was great and burned fast; 


Nor how some cast their shield, and some their spear. 

And of their vestiments, which that they wear. 

And cuppes full of wine, and milk, and blood, 

Into the fire, that burnt as it were wood*; 

Nor how the Greekes with a huge rout* 

Three times riden all the fire about <89> 

Upon the left hand, with a loud shouting. 

And thries with their speares clattering; 

And thries how the ladies gan to cry; 

Nor how that led was homeward Emily; 

Nor how Arcite is burnt to ashes cold; 

Nor how the lyke-wake* was y-hold 

All thilke* night, nor how the Greekes play 

The wake-plays*, ne keep** I not to say: 

Who wrestled best naked, with oil anoint. 

Nor who that bare him best *in no disjoint 

I will not tell eke how they all are gone 

Home to Athenes when the play is done; 

But shortly to the point now will I wend*. 

And maken of my longe tale an end. 


*wake <90> 
funeral games **care 

*in any contest* 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

By process and by length of certain years 

All stinted* is the mourning and the tears *ended 

Of Greekes, by one general assent. 

Then seemed me there was a parlement 

At Athens, upon certain points and cas*: *cases 

Amonge the which points y-spoken was 

To have with certain countries alliance, 

And have ofThebans full obeisance. 

For which this noble Theseus anon 

Let* send after the gentle Palamon, 

Unwist* of him what was the cause and why: 

But in his blacke clothes sorrowfully 

He came at his commandment *on hie*; 

Then sente Theseus for Emily. 

When they were set*, and hush'd was all the place 

And Theseus abided* had a space 

Ere any word came from his wise breast 

*His eyen set he there as was his lest*, *he cast 

And with a sad visage he sighed still, wherever 

And after that right thus he said his will. 

"The firste mover of the cause above 

When he first made the faire chain of love. 

Great was th' effect, and high was his intent; 

Well wist he why, and what thereof he meant: 

For with that faire chain of love he bond* *bound 

The fire, the air, the water, and the lond 

In certain bondes, that they may not flee: < 91 > 

That same prince and mover eke," quoth he, 

"Hath stablish'd, in this wretched world adown. 

Certain of dayes and duration 

To all that are engender'd in this place. 

Over the whiche day they may not pace*, *pass 

All may they yet their dayes well abridge. 

There needeth no authority to allege 



*in haste* 


his eyes 
he pleased* 

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For it is proved by experience; 
But that me list declare my sentence*. 
Then may men by this order well discern. 
That thilke* mover stable is and etern. 
Well may men know, but that it be a fool. 
That every part deriveth from its whole. 
For nature hath not ta'en its beginning 
Of no *partie nor cantle* of a thing. 
But of a thing that perfect is and stable. 
Descending so, till it be corruptable. 
And therefore of His wise purveyance* 
He hath so well beset* his ordinance. 
That species of things and progressions 
Shallen endure by successions. 
And not etern, withouten any lie: 
This mayst thou understand and see at eye. 
Lo th' oak, that hath so long a nourishing 
From the time that it 'ginneth first to spring. 
And hath so long a life, as ye may see. 
Yet at the last y-wasted is the tree. 
Consider eke, how that the harde stone 
Under our feet, on which we tread and gon*. 
Yet wasteth, as it lieth by the way. 
The broade river some time waxeth drey*. 
The greate townes see we wane and wend*. 
Then may ye see that all things have an end. 
Of man and woman see we well also, — 
That needes in one of the termes two, — 
That is to say, in youth or else in age,- 
He must be dead, the king as shall a page; 
Some in his bed, some in the deepe sea. 
Some in the large field, as ye may see: 
There helpeth nought, all go that ilke* way: 
Then may I say that alle thing must die. 


*the same 

part or piece 



*go, disappear 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 


*murmurs at 
'direct, guide 



What maketh this but Jupiter the king? 

The which is prince, and cause of alle thing. 

Converting all unto his proper will. 

From which it is derived, sooth to tell 

And hereagainst no creature alive. 

Of no degree, availeth for to strive. 

Then is it wisdom, as it thinketh me. 

To make a virtue of necessity. 

And take it well, that we may not eschew*. 

And namely what to us all is due. 

And whoso grudgeth* ought, he doth folly. 

And rebel is to him that all may gie*. 

And certainly a man hath most honour 

To dien in his excellence and flower. 

When he is sicker* of his goode name. 

Then hath he done his friend, nor him*, no shame 

And gladder ought his friend be of his death. 

When with honour is yielded up his breath. 

Than when his name *appalled is for age*; *decayed by old age* 

For all forgotten is his vassalage*. *valour, service 

Then is it best, as for a worthy fame. 

To dien when a man is best of name. 

The contrary of all this is wilfulness. 

Why grudge we, why have we heaviness. 

That good Arcite, of chivalry the flower. 

Departed is, with duty and honour. 

Out of this foule prison of this life? 

Why grudge here his cousin and his wife 

Of his welfare, that loved him so well? 

Can he them thank? nay, God wot, neverdeal*, — *not a jot 

That both his soul and eke themselves offend*, *hurt 

And yet they may their lustes* not amend**. *desires **control 

What may I conclude of this longe serie*, *string of remarks 

But after sorrow I rede* us to be merry, *counsel 

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And thanke Jupiter for all his grace? 

And ere that we departe from this place, 

I rede that we make of sorrows two 

One perfect joye lasting evermo': 

And look now where most sorrow is herein. 

There will I first amenden and begin. 

"Sister," quoth he, "this is my full assent. 

With all th' advice here of my parlement. 

That gentle Palamon, your owen knight. 

That serveth you with will, and heart, and might. 

And ever hath, since first time ye him knew. 

That ye shall of your grace upon him rue*. 

And take him for your husband and your lord: 

Lend me your hand, for this is our accord. 

*Let see* now of your womanly pity. 

He is a kinge's brother's son, pardie*. 

And though he were a poore bachelere. 

Since he hath served you so many a year. 

And had for you so great adversity. 

It muste be considered, *'lieveth me*. 

For gentle mercy *oweth to passen right*." * 

Then said he thus to Palamon the knight; 

"I trow there needeth little sermoning 

To make you assente to this thing. 

Come near, and take your lady by the hand." 

Betwixte them was made anon the band. 

That hight matrimony or marriage. 

By all the counsel of the baronage. 

And thus with alle bliss and melody 

Hath Palamon y- wedded Emily. 

And God, that all this wide world hath wrought. 

Send him his love, that hath it dearly bought. 

For now is Palamon in all his weal. 

Living in bliss, in riches, and in heal*. 

*take pity 

*make display* 
*by God 

*believe me* 
ought to be rightly 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And Emily him loves so tenderly, 

And he her serveth all so gentilly, 

That never was there worde them between 

Of jealousy, nor of none other teen*. 

Thus endeth Palamon and Emily 

And God save all this faire company 

*cause of anger 


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When that the Knight had thus his tale told 

In all the rout was neither young nor old. 

That he not said it was a noble story. 

And worthy to be *drawen to memory*; *recorded* 

And *namely the gentles* every one. *especially the gentlefolk* 

Our Host then laugh'd and swore, "So may I gon,* *prosper 

This goes aright; *unbuckled is the mail;* *the budget is opened* 

Let see now who shall tell another tale: 

For truely this game is well begun. 

Now telleth ye. Sir Monk, if that ye conne*. 

Somewhat, to quiten* with the Knighte's tale." 

The Miller that fordrunken was all pale. 

So that unnethes* upon his horse he sat. 

He would avalen* neither hood nor hat. 

Nor abide* no man for his courtesy. 

But in Pilate's voice < 1 > he gan to cry. 

And swore by armes, and by blood, and bones, 

"I can a noble tale for the nones* 

With which I will now quite* the Knighte's tale." 

Our Host saw well how drunk he was of ale. 

And said; "Robin, abide, my leve* brother, *dear 

Some better man shall tell us first another: 

Abide, and let us worke thriftily." 


*with difficulty 
*give way to 




Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

By Godde's soul," quoth he, "that will not I, 

For I will speak, or elles go my way!" 

Our Host answer'd; "*Tell on a devil way*; *devil take you!* 

Thou art a fool; thy wit is overcome." 

"Now hearken," quoth the Miller, "all and some: 

But first I make a protestatioun. 

That I am drunk, I know it by my soun': 

And therefore if that I misspeak or say, 

*Wite it* the ale of Southwark, I you pray: *blame it on*<2> 

For I will tell a legend and a life 

Both of a carpenter and of his wife. 

How that a clerk hath *set the wrighte's cap*." *fooled the carpenter* 

The Reeve answer'd and saide, "*Stint thy clap*, *hold your tongue* 

Let be thy lewed drunken harlotry. 

It is a sin, and eke a great folly 

To apeiren* any man, or him defame, *injure 

And eke to bringe wives in evil name. 

Thou may St enough of other thinges sayn." 

This drunken Miller spake full soon again. 

And saide, "Leve brother Osewold, 

Who hath no wife, he is no cuckold. 

But I say not therefore that thou art one; 

There be full goode wives many one. 

Why art thou angry with my tale now? 

I have a wife, pardie, as well as thou. 

Yet *n'old I*, for the oxen in my plough, *I would not* 

Taken upon me more than enough. 

To deemen* of myself that I am one; *j^dge 

I will believe well that I am none. 

An husband should not be inquisitive 

Of Godde's privity, nor of his wife. 

So he may fmde Godde's foison* there, *treasure 

Of the remnant needeth not to enquere." 

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What should I more say, but that this Millere 

He would his wordes for no man forbear. 

But told his churlish* tale in his mannere; *boorish, rude 

Me thinketh, that I shall rehearse it here. 

And therefore every gentle wight I pray. 

For Godde's love to deem not that I say 

Of evil intent, but that I must rehearse 

Their tales all, be they better or worse. 

Or elles falsen* some of my mattere. *falsify 

And therefore whoso list it not to hear. 

Turn o'er the leaf, and choose another tale; 

For he shall fmd enough, both great and smale. 

Of storial* thing that toucheth gentiless, *historical, true 

And eke morality and holiness. 

Blame not me, if that ye choose amiss. 

The Miller is a churl, ye know well this. 

So was the Reeve, with many other mo'. 

And harlotry* they tolde bothe two. *ribald tales 

*Avise you* now, and put me out of blame; *be warned* 

And eke men should not make earnest of game*. *jest, fun 


The Tale. 

Whilom there was dwelling in Oxenford 

A riche gnoP, that *guestes held to board*, *miser *took in boarders* 

And of his craft he was a carpenter. 

With him there was dwelling a poor scholer. 

Had learned art, but all his fantasy 

Was turned for to learn astrology. 

He coude* a certain of conclusions *knew 

To deeme* by interrogations, *determine 

If that men asked him in certain hours. 

When that men should have drought or elles show'rs: 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Or if men asked him what shoulde fall 
Of everything, I may not reckon all. 

This clerk was called Hendy* Nicholas; *gentle, handsome 

Of derne* love he knew and of solace; *secret, earnest 

And therewith he was sly and full privy, 
And like a maiden meek for to see. 
A chamber had he in that hostelry 
Alone, withouten any company. 

Full *fetisly y-dight* with herbes swoot*, *neatly decorated* 

And he himself was sweet as is the root *sweet 

Of liquorice, or any setewall*. Valerian 

His Almagest, < 1 > and bookes great and small. 
His astrolabe,<2> belonging to his art. 
His augrim stones,<3> layed fair apart 

On shelves couched* at his bedde's head, *laid, set 

His press y-cover'd with a falding* red. *coarse cloth 

And all above there lay a gay psalt'ry 
On which he made at nightes melody. 
So sweetely, that all the chamber rang: 
And Angelus ad virginem<4> he sang. 
And after that he sung the kinge's note; 
Full often blessed was his merry throat. 
And thus this sweete clerk his time spent 

After *his friendes fmding and his rent.* *Attending to his friends, 

and providing for the 
cost of his lodging* 
This carpenter had wedded new a wife. 
Which that he loved more than his life: 
Of eighteen year, I guess, she was of age. 
Jealous he was, and held her narr'w in cage. 
For she was wild and young, and he was old. 
And deemed himself belike* a cuckold. *perhaps 

He knew not Cato,<5> for his wit was rude, 

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That bade a man wed his similitude. 

Men shoulde wedden after their estate. 

For youth and eld* are often at debate. 

But since that he was fallen in the snare. 

He must endure (as other folk) his care. 

Fair was this younge wife, and therewithal 

As any weasel her body gent* and small. 

A seint* she weared, barred all of silk, 

A barm-cloth* eke as white as morning milk 

Upon her lendes*, full of many a gore**. 

White was her smock*, and broider'd all before. 

And eke behind, on her collar about 

Of coal-black silk, within and eke without. 

The tapes of her white volupere* 

Were of the same suit of her collere; 

Her fillet broad of silk, and set full high: 

And sickerly* she had a likerous** eye. ^ 

Full small y-pulled were her browes two. 

And they were bent*, and black as any sloe. 

She was well more *blissful on to see* 

Than is the newe perjenete* tree; 

And softer than the wool is of a wether. 

And by her girdle hung a purse of leather, 

Tassel'd with silk, and *pearled with latoun*. 

In all this world to seeken up and down 

There is no man so wise, that coude thenche* 

So gay a popelot*, or such a wench. 

Full brighter was the shining of her hue. 

Than in the Tower the noble* forged new. 

But of her song, it was as loud and yern*. 

As any swallow chittering on a bern*. 

Thereto* she coulde skip, and *make a game* 

As any kid or calf following his dame. 

Her mouth was sweet as braket,<ll> or as methe^ 



""slim, neat 

ins **plait 
*robe or gown 

head-kerchief <7> 

certainly **lascivious 

*pleasant to look upon* 
*young pear-tree 

'set with brass pearls* 

*fancy, think of 
*puppet <8> 

*agold coin <9> 


*also *romp* 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Or hoard of apples, laid in hay or heath. 
Wincing* she was as is a jolly colt, 
Long as a mast, and upright as a bolt. 
A brooch she bare upon her low collere. 
As broad as is the boss of a bucklere. 
Her shoon were laced on her legges high; 
She was a primerole,* a piggesnie <12>, 
For any lord t' have ligging* in his bed. 
Or yet for any good yeoman to wed. 



Now, sir, and eft* sir, so befell the case. 
That on a day this Hendy Nicholas 
Fell with this younge wife to rage* and play. 
While that her husband was at Oseney,<13> 
As clerkes be full subtle and full quaint. 
And privily he caught her by the queint,* 
And said; "Y-wis,* but if I have my will. 
For *derne love of thee, leman, I spill.' 
And helde her fast by the haunche bones. 
And saide "Leman, love me well at once. 
Or I will dien, all so God me save." 
And she sprang as a colt doth in the trave<14> 
And with her head she writhed fast away. 
And said; "I will not kiss thee, by my fay*. 
Why let be," quoth she, "let be, Nicholas, 
Or I will cry out harow and alas! < 15 > 
Do away your handes, for your courtesy." 
This Nicholas gan mercy for to cry. 
And spake so fair, and proffer 'd him so fast. 
That she her love him granted at the last. 
And swore her oath by Saint Thomas of Kent, 
That she would be at his commandement. 
When that she may her leisure well espy. 
"My husband is so full of jealousy. 


*toy, play the rogue 

for earnest love of thee 
my mistress, I perish* 


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That but* ye waite well, and be privy, *unless 

I wot right well I am but dead," quoth she. 

"Ye muste be full derne* as in this case." *secret 

"Nay, thereof care thee nought," quoth Nicholas: 

"A clerk had *litherly beset his while*, *ill spent his time* 

*But iP he could a carpenter beguile." 
And thus they were accorded and y-sworn 
To wait a time, as I have said beforn. 
When Nicholas had done thus every deal*. 
And thwacked her about the lendes* well. 
He kiss'd her sweet, and taketh his psalt'ry 
And playeth fast, and maketh melody. 
Then fell it thus, that to the parish church. 
Of Christe's owen workes for to wirch*. 
This good wife went upon a holy day; 
Her forehead shone as bright as any day. 
So was it washen, when she left her werk. 





Now was there of that church a parish clerk. 

The which that was y-cleped Absolon. 

Curl'd was his hair, and as the gold it shone. 

And strutted* as a fanne large and broad; *stretched 

Full straight and even lay his jolly shode*. *head of hair 

His rode* was red, his eyen grey as goose, *complexion 

With Paule's windows carven on his shoes < 16> 

In hosen red he went full fetisly*. *daintily, neatly 

Y-clad he was full small and properly. 

All in a kirtle* of a light waget*; *girdle **sky blue 

Full fair and thicke be the pointes set. 

And thereupon he had a gay surplice. 

As white as is the blossom on the rise*. *twig < 17> 

A merry child he was, so God me save; 

Well could he letten blood, and clip, and shave. 

And make a charter of land, and a quittance. 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

In twenty manners could he trip and dance, 

After the school of Oxenforde tho*, < 1 8 > *then 

And with his legges caste to and fro; 

And playen songes on a small ribible*; *fiddle 

Thereto he sung sometimes a loud quinible* *treble 

And as well could he play on a gitern.* *guitar 

In all the town was brewhouse nor tavern, 

That he not visited with his solas*, *mirth, sport 

There as that any *garnard tapstere* was. *licentious barmaid* 

But sooth to say he was somedeal squaimous* *squeamish 

Of farting, and of speeche dangerous. 

This Absolon, that jolly was and gay. 

Went with a censer on the holy day. 

Censing* the wives of the parish fast; *burning incense for 

And many a lovely look he on them cast. 

And namely* on this carpenter's wife: *especially 

To look on her him thought a merry life. 

She was so proper, and sweet, and likerous. 

I dare well say, if she had been a mouse. 

And he a cat, he would *her hent anon*. *have soon caught her* 

This parish clerk, this jolly Absolon, 

Hath in his hearte such a love-longing! 

That of no wife took he none offering; 

For courtesy he said he woulde none. 

The moon at night full clear and brighte shone. 

And Absolon his gitern hath y-taken. 

For paramours he thoughte for to waken. 

And forth he went, joliP and amorous, *joyous 

Till he came to the carpentere's house, 

A little after the cock had y-crow. 

And *dressed him* under a shot window <19>, *stationed himself.* 

That was upon the carpentere's wall. 

He singeth in his voice gentle and small; 

"Now, dear lady, if thy will be. 

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I pray that ye will rue* on me;" 
Full well accordant to his giterning. 
This carpenter awoke, and heard him sing. 
And spake unto his wife, and said anon. 
What Alison, hear'st thou not Absolon, 
That chanteth thus under our bower* wall?" 
And she answer 'd her husband therewithal; 
"Yes, God wot, John, I hear him every deal." 
This passeth forth; what will ye bet* than well? 


*take pity 




*cakes **coals 

From day to day this jolly Absolon 

So wooeth her, that him is woebegone. 

He waketh all the night, and all the day. 

To comb his lockes broad, and make him gay. 

He wooeth her *by means and by brocage*, *by presents and by agents* 

And swore he woulde be her owen page. 

He singeth brokking* as a nightingale. 

He sent her piment <20>, mead, and spiced ale. 

And wafers* piping hot out of the glede**: 

And, for she was of town, he proffer'd meed.<21> 

For some folk will be wonnen for ri chess. 

And some for strokes, and some with gentiless. 

Sometimes, to show his lightness and mast'ry. 

He playeth Herod <22> on a scaffold high. 

But what availeth him as in this case? 

So loveth she the Hendy Nicholas, 

That Absolon may *blow the bucke's horn*: 

He had for all his labour but a scorn. 

And thus she maketh Absolon her ape. 

And all his earnest turneth to a jape*. *jest 

Full sooth is this proverb, it is no lie; 

Men say right thus alway; the nighe sly 

Maketh oft time the far lief to be loth. <23> 

For though that Absolon be wood* or wroth *mad 

"go whistle" 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

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Because that he far was from her sight, 
This nigh Nicholas stood still in his light. 
Now bear thee well, thou Hendy Nicholas, 
For Absolon may wail and sing "Alas!" 

And so befell, that on a Saturday 

This carpenter was gone to Oseney, 

And Hendy Nicholas and Alison 

Accorded were to this conclusion. 

That Nicholas shall *shape him a wile* 

The sillyjealous husband to beguile; 

And if so were the game went aright. 

She shoulde sleepen in his arms all night; 

For this was her desire and his also. 

And right anon, withoute wordes mo'. 

This Nicholas no longer would he tarry. 

But doth full soft unto his chamber carry 

Both meat and drinke for a day or tway. 

And to her husband bade her for to say. 

If that he asked after Nicholas, 

She shoulde say, "She wist* not where he was; 

Of all the day she saw him not with eye; 

She trowed* he was in some malady. 

For no cry that her maiden could him call 

He would answer, for nought that might befall. 

Thus passed forth all thilke* Saturday, 

That Nicholas still in his chamber lay. 

And ate, and slept, and didde what him list 

Till Sunday, that* the sunne went to rest. 

This silly carpenter *had great marvaill* 

Of Nicholas, or what thing might him ail. 

And said; "I am adrad*, by Saint Thomas! 

It standeth not aright with Nicholas: 

*God shielde* that he died suddenly. 

'devise a stratagem* 




Vondered greatly* 

*afraid, in dread 

*heaven forbid!* 



This world is now full fickle sickerly*. *certainly 

I saw to-day a corpse y-borne to chirch. 

That now on Monday last I saw him wirch*. 

"Go up," quod he unto his knave*, "anon; 

Clepe* at his door, or knocke with a stone: 

Look how it is, and tell me boldely." 

This knave went him up full sturdily. 

And, at the chamber door while that he stood. 

He cried and knocked as that he were wood:* 

"What how? what do ye. Master Nicholay? 

How may ye sleepen all the longe day?" 

But all for nought, he hearde not a word. 

An hole he found full low upon the board. 

Where as the cat was wont in for to creep. 

And at that hole he looked in full deep. 

And at the last he had of him a sight. 

This Nicholas sat ever gaping upright. 

As he had kyked* on the newe moon. *looked <24> 

Adown he went, and told his master soon. 

In what array he saw this ilke* man. *same 

This carpenter to *blissen him* began, *bless, cross himselP 

And said: "Now help us, Sainte Frideswide.<25> 

A man wot* little what shall him betide. 

This man is fall'n with his astronomy 

Into some woodness* or some agony. 

I thought aye well how that it shoulde be. 

Men should know nought of Godde's privity 

Yea, blessed be alway a lewed* man. 

That *nought but only his believe can*. 

So far'd another clerk with astronomy: 

He walked in the fieldes for to *pry 

Upon* the starres, what there should befall. 

Till he was in a marie pit y-fall.<26> 



*knows no more 
than his "credo."* 

*keep watch on* 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

He saw not that. But yet, by Saint Thomas 

*Me rueth sore oP Hendy Nicholas: 

He shall be *rated oP his studying, 

If that I may, by Jesus, heaven's king! 

Get me a staff, that I may underspore* 

While that thou, Robin, heavest off the door: 

He shall out of his studying, as I guess." 

And to the chamber door he gan him dress* 

His knave was a strong carl for the nonce. 

And by the hasp he heav'd it off at once; 

Into the floor the door fell down anon. 

This Nicholas sat aye as still as stone. 

And ever he gap'd upward into the air. 

The carpenter ween'd* he were in despair. 

And hent* him by the shoulders mightily. 

And shook him hard, and cried spitously;* 

"What, Nicholas? what how, man? look adown: 

Awake, and think on Christe's passioun. 

I crouche thee < 27 > from elves, and from wights*. 

Therewith the night-spell said he anon rights*. 

On the four halves* of the house about. 

And on the threshold of the door without. 

"Lord Jesus Christ, and Sainte Benedight, 

Blesse this house from every wicked wight. 

From the night mare, the white Pater-noster; 

Where wonnest* thou now, Sainte Peter's sister?" 

And at the last this Hendy Nicholas 

Gan for to sigh full sore, and said; "Alas! 

Shall all time world be lost eftsoones* now?" 

This carpenter answer'd; "What sayest thou? 

What? think on God, as we do, men that swink.*" 

This Nicholas answer'd; "Fetch me a drink; 

And after will I speak in privity 

Of certain thing that toucheth thee and me: 

1 am very sorry for* 
*chidden for* 



*apply himself 






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I will tell it no other man certain." 


This carpenter went down, and came again. 
And brought of mighty ale a large quart; 
And when that each of them had drunk his part. 
This Nicholas his chamber door fast shet*. 
And down the carpenter by him he set. 
And saide; "John, mine host full lieP and dear. 
Thou shalt upon thy truthe swear me here. 
That to no wight thou shalt my counsel wray*: 
For it is Christes counsel that I say. 
And if thou tell it man, thou art forlore:* 
For this vengeance thou shalt have therefor. 
That if thou wraye* me, thou shalt be wood**." 
"Nay Christ forbid it for his holy blood!" 
Quoth then this silly man; "I am no blab,* 
Nor, though I say it, am I *lief to gab*. '' 

Say what thou wilt, I shall it never tell 
To child or wife, by him that harried Hell." 





*betray **mad 

fond of speech* 


"Now, John," quoth Nicholas, "I will not lie, 

I have y- found in my astrology. 

As I have looked in the moone bright. 

That now on Monday next, at quarter night. 

Shall fall a rain, and that so wild and wood*. 

That never half so great was Noe's flood. 

This world," he said, "in less than half an hour 

Shall all be dreint*, so hideous is the shower: 

Thus shall mankinde drench*, and lose their life." 

This carpenter answer'd; "Alas, my wife! 

And shall she drench? alas, mine Alisoun!" 

For sorrow of this he fell almost adown. 

And said; "Is there no remedy in this case?" 

"Why, yes, for God," quoth Hendy Nicholas; 




Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

"If thou wilt worken after *lore and rede*; *learning and advice* 

Thou may'st not worken after thine own head. 

For thus saith Solomon, that was full true: 

Work all by counsel, and thou shalt not rue*. *repent 

And if thou worke wilt by good counseil, 

I undertake, withoute mast or sail. 

Yet shall I save her, and thee, and me. 

Hast thou not heard how saved was Noe, 

When that our Lord had warned him beforn. 

That all the world with water *should be lorn*?" *should perish* 

"Yes," quoth this carpenter," *full yore ago*." *long since* 

"Hast thou not heard," quoth Nicholas, "also 

The sorrow of Noe, with his fellowship. 

That he had ere he got his wife to ship? < 30 > 

*Him had been lever, I dare well undertake. 

At thilke time, than all his wethers black. 

That she had had a ship herself alone.* *see note <31> 

And therefore know'st thou what is best to be done? 

This asketh haste, and of an hasty thing 

Men may not preach or make tarrying. 

Anon go get us fast into this inn* *house 

A kneading trough, or else a kemelin*, *brewing-tub 

For each of us; but look that they be large. 

In whiche we may swim* as in a barge: *float 

And have therein vitaille suffisant 

But for one day; fie on the remenant; 

The water shall aslake* and go away *slacken, abate 

Aboute prime* upon the nexte day. *early morning 

But Robin may not know of this, thy knave*, *servant 

Nor eke thy maiden Gill I may not save: 

Ask me not why: for though thou aske me 

I will not telle Godde's privity. 

Sufficeth thee, *but if thy wit be mad*, *unless thou be 

To have as great a grace as Noe had; out of thy wits* 

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Thy wife shall I well saven out of doubt. 

Go now thy way, and speed thee hereabout. 

But when thou hast for her, and thee, and me, 

Y-gotten us these kneading tubbes three. 

Then shalt thou hang them in the roof full high. 

So that no man our purveyance* espy: *foresight, providence 

And when thou hast done thus as I have said. 

And hast our vitaille fair in them y-laid. 

And eke an axe to smite the cord in two 

When that the water comes, that we may go. 

And break an hole on high upon the gable 

Into the garden-ward, over the stable. 

That we may freely passe forth our way. 

When that the greate shower is gone away. 

Then shalt thou swim as merry, I undertake. 

As doth the white duck after her drake: 

Then will I clepe,* 'How, Alison? How, John? *call 

Be merry: for the flood will pass anon.' 

And thou wilt say, 'Hail, Master Nicholay, 

Good-morrow, I see thee well, for it is day' 

And then shall we be lordes all our life 

Of all the world, as Noe and his wife. 

But of one thing I warne thee full right. 

Be well advised, on that ilke* night, *same 

When we be enter 'd into shippe's board. 

That none of us not speak a single word. 

Nor clepe nor cry, but be in his prayere. 

For that is Godde's owen heste* dear. *command 

Thy wife and thou must hangen far atween*, *asunder 

For that betwixte you shall be no sin. 

No more in looking than there shall in deed. 

This ordinance is said: go, God thee speed 

To-morrow night, when men be all asleep. 

Into our kneading tubbes will we creep. 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And sitte there, abiding Godde's grace. 

Go now thy way, I have no longer space 

To make of this no longer sermoning: 

Men say thus: Send the wise, and say nothing: 

Thou art so wise, it needeth thee nought teach. 

Go, save our lives, and that I thee beseech." 

strange contrivance 

This silly carpenter went forth his way. 

Full oft he said, "Alas! and Well-a-day!,' 

And to his wife he told his privity. 

And she was ware, and better knew than he 

What all this *quainte cast was for to say*. 

But natheless she fear'd as she would dey. 

And said: "Alas! go forth thy way anon. 

Help us to scape, or we be dead each one. 

I am thy true and very wedded wife; 

Go, deare spouse, and help to save our life." 

Lo, what a great thing is affection! 

Men may die of imagination. 

So deeply may impression be take. 

This silly carpenter begins to quake: 

He thinketh verily that he may see 

This newe flood come weltering as the sea 

To drenchen* Alison, his honey dear. 

He weepeth, waileth, maketh *sorry cheer*; 

He sigheth, with full many a sorry sough.* 

He go'th, and getteth him a kneading trough. 

And after that a tub, and a kemelin. 

And privily he sent them to his inn: 

And hung them in the roof full privily. 

With his own hand then made he ladders three. 

To climb e by *the ranges and the stalks* *the rungs and the uprights' 

Unto the tubbes hanging in the balks*; *beams 

And victualed them, kemelin, trough, and tub. 

dismal countenance* 

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With bread and cheese, and good ale in a jub*, *jug 

Sufficing right enough as for a day. 

But ere that he had made all this array. 

He sent his knave*, and eke his wench** also, *servant **maid 

Upon his need* to London for to go. *business 

And on the Monday, when it drew to night. 

He shut his door withoute candle light. 

And dressed* every thing as it should be. *prepared 

And shortly up they climbed all the three. 

They satte stille well *a furlong way*. *the time it would take 

"Now, Pater noster, clum,"<32> said Nicholay, to walk a furlong* 

And "clum," quoth John; and "clum," said Alison: 

This carpenter said his devotion. 

And still he sat and bidded his prayere. 

Awaking on the rain, if he it hear. 

The deade sleep, for weary business. 

Fell on this carpenter, right as I guess. 

About the curfew-time,<33> or little more. 

For *travail of his ghost* he groaned sore, *anguish of spirit* 

*And eft he routed, for his head mislay* *and then he snored, 

Adown the ladder stalked Nicholay; for his head lay awry* 

And Alison full soft adown she sped. 

Withoute wordes more they went to bed, 

*There as* the carpenter was wont to lie: *where* 

There was the revel, and the melody. 

And thus lay Alison and Nicholas, 

In business of mirth and in solace. 

Until the bell of laudes* gan to ring, *morning service, at 3. a.m. 

And friars in the chancel went to sing. 

This parish clerk, this amorous Absolon, 
That is for love alway so woebegone. 
Upon the Monday was at Oseney 
With company, him to disport and play; 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And asked upon cas* a cloisterer** *occasion **monk 

Full privily after John the carpenter; 

And he drew him apart out of the church, 

And said, "I n'ot;* I saw him not here wirch** *know not **work 

Since Saturday; I trow that he be went 

For timber, where our abbot hath him sent. 

And dwellen at the Grange a day or two: 

For he is wont for timber for to go. 

Or else he is at his own house certain. 

Where that he be, I cannot *soothly sayn.*" *say certainly* 

This Absolon full jolly was and light. 

And thought, "Now is the time to wake all night. 

For sickerly* I saw him not stirring *certainly 

About his door, since day began to spring. 

So may I thrive, but I shall at cock crow 

Full privily go knock at his window. 

That stands full low upon his bower* wall: *chamber 

To Alison then will I tellen all 

My love-longing; for I shall not miss 

That at the leaste way I shall her kiss. 

Some manner comfort shall I have, parfay*, *by my faith 

My mouth hath itched all this livelong day: 

That is a sign of kissing at the least. 

All night I mette* eke I was at a feast. *dreamt 

Therefore I will go sleep an hour or tway. 

And all the night then will I wake and play." 

When that the first cock crowed had, anon 

Up rose this jolly lover Absolon, 

And him arrayed gay, *at point devise.* *with exact care* 

But first he chewed grains<34> and liquorice. 

To smelle sweet, ere he had combed his hair. 

Under his tongue a true love <35> he bare. 

For thereby thought he to be gracious. 

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Then came he to the carpentere's house. 

And still he stood under the shot window; 

Unto his breast it raught*, it was so low; 

And soft he coughed with a semisoun'.* 

"What do ye, honeycomb, sweet Alisoun? 

My faire bird, my sweet cinamome*. 

Awaken, leman* mine, and speak to me. 

Full little thinke ye upon my woe. 

That for your love I sweat *there as* I go. 

No wonder is that I do swelt* and sweat. 

I mourn as doth a lamb after the teat 

Y-wis*, leman, I have such love-longing. 

That like a turtle* true is my mourning. 

I may not eat, no more than a maid." 

"Go from the window, thou jack fool," she said: 

"As help me God, it will not be, 'come ba* me.' 

I love another, else I were to blame". 

Well better than thee, by Jesus, Absolon. 

Go forth thy way, or I will cast a stone; 

And let me sleep; *a twenty devil way*. 

"Alas!" quoth Absolon, "and well away! 

That true love ever was so ill beset: 

Then kiss me, since that it may be no bet*. 

For Jesus' love, and for the love of me." 

"Wilt thou then go thy way therewith?" , quoth she. 

"Yea, certes, leman," quoth this Absolon. 

"Then make thee ready," quoth she, "I come anon." 

[And unto Nicholas she said *full still*: *in a low voice* 

"Now peace, and thou shalt laugh anon thy fill."] < 36 > 

This Absolon down set him on his knees. 

And said; "I am a lord at all degrees: 

For after this I hope there cometh more; 

Leman, thy grace, and, sweete bird, thine ore.*" *favour 

The window she undid, and that in haste. 

*low tone 

cinnamon, sweet spice 




*twenty devils take ye!* 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

"Have done," quoth she, "come off, and speed thee fast. 

Lest that our neighebours should thee espy." 

Then Absolon gan wipe his mouth full dry. 

Dark was the night as pitch or as the coal. 

And at the window she put out her hole. 

And Absolon him fell ne bet ne werse. 

But with his mouth he kiss'd her naked erse 

Full savourly. When he was ware of this. 

Aback he start, and thought it was amiss; 

For well he wist a woman hath no beard. 

He felt a thing all rough, and long y-hair'd. 

And saide; "Fy, alas! what have I do?" 

"Te he!" quoth she, and clapt the window to; 

And Absolon went forth at sorry pace. 

"A beard, a beard," said Hendy Nicholas; 

"By God's corpus, this game went fair and well." 

This silly Absolon heard every deal*, *word 

And on his lip he gan for anger bite; 

And to himself he said, "I shall thee quite*. *requite, be even with 

Who rubbeth now, who frotteth* now his lips *rubs 

With dust, with sand, with straw, with cloth, with chips. 

But Absolon? that saith full oft, "Alas! 

My soul betake I unto Sathanas, 

But me were lever* than all this town," quoth he *rather 

I this despite awroken* for to be. *revenged 

Alas! alas! that I have been y-blent*." *deceived 

His bote love is cold, and all y-quent.* *quenched 

For from that time that he had kiss'd her erse. 

Of paramours he *sette not a kers,* *cared not a rush* 

For he was healed of his malady; 

Full often paramours he gan defy. 

And weep as doth a child that hath been beat. 

A softe pace he went over the street 

Unto a smith, men callen Dan* Gerveis, *master 

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That in his forge smithed plough-harness; 

He sharped share and culter busily. 

This Absolon knocked all easily. 

And said; "Undo, Gerveis, and that anon." 

"What, who art thou?" "It is I, Absolon." 

"What? Absolon, what? Christe's sweete tree*. 

Why rise so rath*? hey! Benedicite, 

What aileth you? some gay girl, < 37 > God it wote. 

Hath brought you thus upon the viretote:< 38 > 

By Saint Neot, ye wot well what I mean." 

This Absolon he raughte* not a bean 

Of all his play; no word again he gaP, 

For he had more tow on his distaff<39> 

Than Gerveis knew, and saide; "Friend so dear. 

That bote culter in the chimney here 

Lend it to me, I have therewith to don*: 

I will it bring again to thee full soon." 

Gerveis answered; "Certes, were it gold. 

Or in a poke* nobles all untold. 

Thou shouldst it have, as I am a true smith. 

Hey! Christe's foot, what will ye do therewith?" 

"Thereof," quoth Absolon, "be as be may; 

I shall well tell it thee another day:" 

And caught the culter by the colde stele*. 

Full soft out at the door he gan to steal. 

And went unto the carpentere's wall 

He coughed first, and knocked therewithal 

Upon the window, light as he did ere*. 

This Alison answered; "Who is there 

That knocketh so? I warrant him a thief." 

"Nay, nay," quoth he, "God wot, my sweete lefe*, 

I am thine Absolon, my own darling. 

Of gold," quoth he, "I have thee brought a ring. 

My mother gave it me, so God me save! 



*recked, cared 




*before <40> 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Full fine it is, and thereto well y-grave*: 

This will I give to thee, if thou me kiss." 

Now Nicholas was risen up to piss. 

And thought he would *amenden all the jape*; 

He shoulde kiss his erse ere that he scape: 

And up the window did he hastily. 

And out his erse he put full privily 

Over the buttock, to the haunche bone. 

And therewith spake this clerk, this Absolon, 

"Speak, sweete bird, I know not where thou art." 

This Nicholas anon let fly a fart. 

As great as it had been a thunder dent*; 

That with the stroke he was well nigh y-blent*; 

But he was ready with his iron hot. 

And Nicholas amid the erse he smote. 

Off went the skin an handbreadth all about. 

The bote culter burned so his tout*. 

That for the smart he weened* he would die; 

As he were wood*, for woe he gan to cry, 

"Help! water, water, help for Godde's heart!" 

*improve the joke* 

*peal, clap 



This carpenter out of his slumber start. 

And heard one cry "Water," as he were wood*. 

And thought, "Alas! now cometh Noes flood." 

He sat him up withoute wordes mo' 

And with his axe he smote the cord in two; 

And down went all; he found neither to sell 

Nor bread nor ale, till he came to the sell*. 

Upon the floor, and there in swoon he lay. 

Up started Alison and Nicholay, 

And cried out an "harow!" <15> in the street. 

The neighbours alle, bothe small and great 

In ranne, for to gauren* on this man. 

That yet in swoone lay, both pale and wan: 


*threshold <41> 


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For with the fall he broken had his arm. 

But stand he must unto his owen harm. 

For when he spake, he was anon borne down 

With Hendy Nicholas and Alisoun. 

They told to every man that he was wood*; 

He was aghaste* so of Noes flood. 

Through phantasy, that of his vanity 

He had y-bought him kneading-tubbes three. 

And had them hanged in the roof above; 

And that he prayed them for Godde's love 

To sitten in the roof for company. 

The folk gan laughen at his phantasy. 

Into the roof they kyken* and they gape. 

And turned all his harm into a jape*. 

For whatsoe'er this carpenter answer 'd. 

It was for nought, no man his reason heard. 

With oathes great he was so sworn adown. 

That he was holden wood in all the town. 

For every clerk anon right held with other; 

They said, "The man was wood, my leve* brother;" 

And every wight gan laughen at his strife. 

Thus swived* was the carpentere's wife. 

For all his keeping* and his jealousy; 

And Absolon hath kiss'd her nether eye; 

And Nicholas is scalded in the tout. 

This tale is done, and God save all the rout*. 



*peep, look. 





Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

me &iew^'^ I:yale. 

The Prologue. 

WHEN folk had laughed all at this nice case 

Of Absolon and Hendy Nicholas, 

Diverse folk diversely they said, 

But for the more part they laugh'd and play'd;* 

And at this tale I saw no man him grieve. 

But it were only Osewold the Reeve. 

Because he was of carpenteres craft, 

A little ire is in his hearte laft*; 

He gan to grudge* and blamed it a lite.** 

"So the* I," quoth he, "full well could I him quite'' 

With blearing* of a proude miller's eye. 

If that me list to speak of ribaldry. 

But I am old; me list not play for age; <2> 

Grass time is done, my fodder is now forage. 

This white top* writeth mine olde years; 

Mine heart is also moulded* as mine hairs; 

And I do fare as doth an open-erse*; 

That ilke* fruit is ever longer werse. 

Till it be rotten *in mullok or in stre*. 

We olde men, I dread, so fare we; 

Till we be rotten, can we not be ripe; 

We hop* away, while that the world will pipe; 

For in our will there sticketh aye a nail. 

*were diverted 


murmur **little. 

* *thrive **match 

*dimming < 1 > 

*grown mouldy 
*medlar <3> 
*on the ground or in straw* 


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To have an hoary head and a green tail. 

As hath a leek; for though our might be gone. 

Our will desireth folly ever-in-one*: 

For when we may not do, then will we speak. 

Yet in our ashes cold does fire reek.* 

Four gledes* have we, which I shall devise**. 

Vaunting, and lying, anger, covetise*. 

These foure sparks belongen unto eld. 

Our olde limbes well may be unweld*. 

But will shall never fail us, that is sooth. 

And yet have I alway a coltes tooth,<5> 

As many a year as it is passed and gone 

Since that my tap of life began to run; 

For sickerly*, when I was born, anon 

Death drew the tap of life, and let it gon: 

And ever since hath so the tap y-run. 

Till that almost all empty is the tun. 

The stream of life now droppeth on the chimb. < 6 

The silly tongue well may ring and chime 

Of wretchedness, that passed is full yore*: 

With olde folk, save dotage, is no more. <7> 


coals ** describe 




When that our Host had heard this sermoning. 

He gan to speak as lordly as a king. 

And said; "To what amounteth all this wit? 

What? shall we speak all day of holy writ? 

The devil made a Reeve for to preach. 

As of a souter* a shipman, or a leach**. 

Say forth thy tale, and tarry not the time: 

Lo here is Deptford, and 'tis half past prime:<10> 

Lo Greenwich, where many a shrew is in. 

It were high time thy tale to begin." 

*cobbler <8> 
**surgeon <9> 

"Now, sirs," quoth then this Osewold the Reeve, 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

I pray you all that none of you do grieve, 

Though I answer, and somewhat set his hove*, *hood < 1 1 > 

For lawful is *force off with force to shove.* *to repel force 

This drunken miller hath y-told us here by force* 

How that beguiled was a carpentere, 

Paraventure* in scorn, for I am one: *perhaps 

And, by your leave, I shall him quite anon. 

Right in his churlish termes will I speak, 

I pray to God his necke might to-break. 

He can well in mine eye see a stalk. 

But in his own he cannot see a balk."< 12 > 

The Tale. 

At Trompington, not far from Cantebrig,* *Cambridge 

There goes a brook, and over that a brig. 

Upon the whiche brook there stands a mill: 

And this is *very sooth* that I you tell. 

A miller was there dwelling many a day. 

As any peacock he was proud and gay: 

Pipen he could, and fish, and nettes bete*. 

And turne cups, and wrestle well, and shete*, 

Aye by his belt he bare a long pavade*. 

And of his sword full trenchant was the blade. 

A jolly popper* bare he in his pouch; *dagger 

There was no man for peril durst him touch. 

A Sheffield whittle* bare he in his hose. *small knife 

Round was his face, and camuse* was his nose. *flat <2> 

As pilled* as an ape's was his skull. *peeled, bald. 

He was a market-beter* at the full. *brawler 

There durste no wight hand upon him legge*, *lay 

That he ne swore anon he should abegge*. *suffer the penalty 

*complete truth* 


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A thief he was, for sooth, of corn and meal. 

And that a sly, and used well to steal. 

His name was *hoten deinous Simekin* *called "Disdainful Simkin" 

A wife he hadde, come of noble kin: 

The parson of the town her father was. 

With her he gave full many a pan of brass. 

For that Simkin should in his blood ally. 

She was y-foster'd in a nunnery: 

For Simkin woulde no wife, as he said. 

But she were well y-nourish'd, and a maid. 

To saven his estate and yeomanry: 

And she was proud, and pert as is a pie*. *magpie 

A full fair sight it was to see them two; 

On holy days before her would he go 

With his tippet* y-bound about his head; *hood 

And she came after in a gite* of red, *gown <3> 

And Simkin hadde hosen of the same. 

There durste no wight call her aught but Dame: 

None was so hardy, walking by that way. 

That with her either durste *rage or play*, *use freedom* 

*But iP he would be slain by Simekin *unless 

With pavade, or with knife, or bodekin. 

For jealous folk be per'lous evermo': 

Algate* they would their wives *wende so*. *unless *so behave* 

And eke for she was somewhat smutterlich*, *dirty 

She was as dign* as water in a ditch, *nasty 

And all so full of hoker*, and bismare**. *ill-nature **abusive speech 

Her thoughte that a lady should her spare*, *not judge her hardly 

What for her kindred, and her nortelrie* *nurturing, education 

That she had learned in the nunnery. 

One daughter hadde they betwixt them two 
Of twenty year, withouten any mo. 
Saving a child that was of half year age. 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

In cradle it lay, and was a proper page.* *boy 

This wenche thick and well y-growen was, 

With camuse* nose, and eyen gray as glass; *flat 

With buttocks broad, and breastes round and high; 

But right fair was her hair, I will not lie. 

The parson of the town, for she was fair. 

In purpose was to make of her his heir 

Both of his chattels and his messuage. 

And *strange he made it* of her marriage. *he made it a matter 

His purpose was for to bestow her high of difficulty* 

Into some worthy blood of ancestry. 

For holy Church's good may be dispended* *spent 

On holy Church's blood that is descended. 

Therefore he would his holy blood honour 

Though that he holy Churche should devour. 

Great soken* hath this miller, out of doubt, *toll taken for grinding 

With wheat and malt, of all the land about; 

And namely* there was a great college *especially 

Men call the Soler Hall at Cantebrege,<4> 

There was their wheat and eke their malt y-ground. 

And on a day it happed in a stound*, *suddenly 

Sick lay the manciple* of a malady, *steward < 5 > 

Men *weened wisly* that he shoulde die. *thought certainly* 

For which this miller stole both meal and corn 

An hundred times more than beforn. 

For theretofore he stole but courteously. 

But now he was a thief outrageously. 

For which the warden chid and made fare*, *fuss 

But thereof *set the miller not a tare*; *he cared not a rush* 

He *crack'd his boast,* and swore it was not so. *talked big* 

Then were there younge poore scholars two. 
That dwelled in the hall of which I say; 

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TestiP they were, and lusty for to play; *headstrong <6> 

And only for their mirth and revelry 

Upon the warden busily they cry. 

To give them leave for but a *little stound*, *short time* 

To go to mill, and see their corn y-ground: 

And hardily* they durste lay their neck, *boldly 

The miller should not steal them half a peck 

Of corn by sleight, nor them by force bereave* *take away 

And at the last the warden give them leave: 

John hight the one, and Alein hight the other. 

Of one town were they born, that highte Strother,<7> 

Far in the North, I cannot tell you where. 

This Alein he made ready all his gear. 

And on a horse the sack he cast anon: 

Forth went Alein the clerk, and also John, 

With good sword and with buckler by their side. 

John knew the way, him needed not no guide. 

And at the mill the sack adown he lay'th. 


Alein spake first; "All hail, Simon, in faith. 

How fares thy faire daughter, and thy wife." 

"Alein, welcome," quoth Simkin, "by my life. 

And John also: how now, what do ye here?" 

"By God, Simon," quoth John, "need has no peer*. *equal 

Him serve himself behoves that has no swain*, *servant 

Or else he is a fool, as clerkes sayn. 

Our manciple I hope* he will be dead, *expect 

So workes aye the wanges* in his head: *cheek-teeth <8> 

And therefore is I come, and eke Alein, 

To grind our corn and carry it home again: 

I pray you speed us hence as well ye may." 

"It shall be done," quoth Simkin, "by my fay. 

What will ye do while that it is in hand?" 

"By God, right by the hopper will I stand," 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Quoth John, "and see how that the corn goes in. 
Yet saw I never, by my father's kin. 
How that the hopper wagges to and fro." 
Alein answered, "John, and wilt thou so? 
Then will I be beneathe, by my crown. 
And see how that the meale falls adown 
Into the trough, that shall be my disport*: 
For, John, in faith I may be of your sort; 
I is as ill a miller as is ye." 




This miller smiled at their nicety*. 

And thought, "All this is done but for a wile. 

They weenen* that no man may them beguile. 

But by my thrift yet shall I blear their eye,<9> 

For all the sleight in their philosophy. 

The more *quainte knackes* that they make, *odd little tricks* 

The more will I steal when that I take. 

Instead of flour yet will I give them bren*. *bran 

The greatest clerks are not the wisest men. 

As whilom to the wolf thus spake the mare: <10> 

Of all their art ne count I not a tare." 

Out at the door he went full privily. 

When that he saw his time, softely. 

He looked up and down, until he found 

The clerkes' horse, there as he stood y-bound 

Behind the mill, under a levesell:* *arbour< 1 1 > 

And to the horse he went him fair and well. 

And stripped off the bridle right anon. 

And when the horse was loose, he gan to gon 

Toward the fen, where wilde mares run. 

Forth, with "Wehee!" through thick and eke through thin. 

This miller went again, no word he said. 

But did his note*, and with these clerkes play'd, *business < 12> 

Till that their corn was fair and well y-ground. 

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And when the meal was sacked and y-bound. 
Then John went out, and found his horse away. 
And gan to cry, "Harow, and well-away! 
Our horse is lost: Alein, for Godde's bones. 
Step on thy feet; come off, man, all at once: 
Alas! our warden has his palfrey lorn.*" 
This Alein all forgot, both meal and corn; 
All was out of his mind his husbandry*. 
"What, which way is he gone?" he gan to cry. 
The wife came leaping inward at a renne*. 
She said; "Alas! your horse went to the fen 
With wilde mares, as fast as he could go. 
Unthank* come on his hand that bound him so 
And his that better should have knit the rein." 
"Alas!" quoth John, "Alein, for Christes pain 
Lay down thy sword, and I shall mine also. 
I is full wight*, God wate**, as is a roe. 
By Godde's soul he shall not scape us bathe*. 
Why n' had thou put the capel* in the lathe**? 
Ill hail, Alein, by God thou is a fonne.*" 
These silly clerkes have full fast y-run 
Toward the fen, both Alein and eke John; 
And when the miller saw that they were gone. 
He half a bushel of their flour did take. 
And bade his wife go knead it in a cake. 
He said; I trow, the clerkes were afeard. 
Yet can a miller *make a clerkes beard,* 
For all his art: yea, let them go their way! 
Lo where they go! yea, let the children play: 
They get him not so lightly, by my crown." 
These silly clerkes runnen up and down 
With "Keep, keep; stand, stand; jossa*, warderere. 
Go whistle thou, and I shall keep* him here." 
But shortly, till that it was very night 



*careful watch over 
the corn* 

*ill luck, a curse 

*swift **knows 

*horse<14> **barn 

cheat a scholar* <15> 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

They coulde not, though they did all their might, 
Their capel catch, he ran alway so fast: 
Till in a ditch they caught him at the last. 

Weary and wet, as beastes in the rain. 

Comes silly John, and with him comes Alein. 

"Alas," quoth John, "the day that I was born! 

Now are we driv'n till hething* and till scorn. *mockery 

Our corn is stol'n, men will us fonnes* call, *fools 

Both the warden, and eke our fellows all. 

And namely* the miller, well-away!" *especially 

Thus plained John, as he went by the way 

Toward the mill, and Bayard* in his hand. *the bay horse 

The miller sitting by the fire he fand*. *found 

For it was night, and forther* might they not, *go their way 

But for the love of God they him besought 

Of herberow* and ease, for their penny. *lodging 

The miller said again," If there be any. 

Such as it is, yet shall ye have your part. 

Mine house is strait, but ye have learned art; 

Ye can by arguments maken a place 

A mile broad, of twenty foot of space. 

Let see now if this place may suffice. 

Or make it room with speech, as is your guise.*" *fashion 

"Now, Simon," said this John, "by Saint Cuthberd 

Aye is thou merry, and that is fair answer 'd. 

I have heard say, man shall take of two things. 

Such as he findes, or such as he brings. 

But specially I pray thee, hoste dear. 

Gar <16> us have meat and drink, and make us cheer. 

And we shall pay thee truly at the full: 

With empty hand men may not hawkes tull*. *allure 

Lo here our silver ready for to spend." 

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This miller to the town his daughter send 

For ale and bread, and roasted them a goose. 

And bound their horse, he should no more go loose: 

And them in his own chamber made a bed. 

With sheetes and with chalons* fair y-spread, *blankets< 17> 

Not from his owen bed ten foot or twelve: 

His daughter had a bed all by herselve. 

Right in the same chamber *by and by*: *side by side* 

It might no better be, and cause why. 

There was no *roomer herberow* in the place. *roomier lodging* 

They suppen, and they speaken of solace. 

And drinken ever strong ale at the best. 

Aboute midnight went they all to rest. 

Well had this miller varnished his head; 

Full pale he was, fordrunken, and *nought red*. *without his wits* 

He yoxed*, and he spake thorough the nose, *hiccuped 

As he were in the quakke*, or in the pose**. *grunting **catarrh 

To bed he went, and with him went his wife. 

As any jay she light was and jolife,* *jo% 

So was her jolly whistle well y-wet. 

The cradle at her beddes feet was set. 

To rock, and eke to give the child to suck. 

And when that drunken was all in the crock* *pitcher< 18> 

To bedde went the daughter right anon. 

To bedde went Alein, and also John. 

There was no more; needed them no dwale.<19> 

This miller had, so wisly* bibbed ale, *certainly 

That as a horse he snorted in his sleep. 

Nor of his tail behind he took no keep*. *heed 

His wife bare him a burdoun*, a full strong; *bass <20> 

Men might their routing* hearen a furlong. *snoring 

The wenche routed eke for company. 
Alein the clerk, that heard this melody. 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

He poked John, and saide: "Sleepest thou? 

Heardest thou ever such a song ere now? 

Lo what a compline<21 > is y-mell* them all. *among 

A wilde fire upon their bodies fall, 

Who hearken'd ever such a ferly* thing? *strange <22> 

Yea, they shall have the flow'r of ill ending! 

This longe night there *tides me* no rest. *comes to me* 

But yet no force*, all shall be for the best. *matter 

For, John," said he, "as ever may I thrive. 

If that I may, yon wenche will I swive*. *ci^joy carnally 

Some easement* has law y-shapen** us *satisfaction **provided 

For, John, there is a law that sayeth thus, 

That if a man in one point be aggriev'd. 

That in another he shall be relievd. 

Our corn is stol'n, soothly it is no nay. 

And we have had an evil fit to-day. 

And since I shall have none amendement 

Against my loss, I will have easement: 

By Godde's soul, it shall none, other be." 

This John answer 'd; Alein, *avise thee*: *have a care* 

The miller is a perilous man," he said, 

"And if that he out of his sleep abraid*, *awaked 

He mighte do us both a villainy*." *mischief 

Alein answer'd; "I count him not a fly. 

And up he rose, and by the wench he crept. 

This wenche lay upright, and fast she slept. 

Till he so nigh was, ere she might espy. 

That it had been too late for to cry: 

And, shortly for to say, they were at one. 

Now play, Alein, for I will speak of John. 

This John lay still a furlong way <23 > or two. 

And to himself he made ruth* and woe. *wail 

"Alas!" quoth he, "this is a wicked jape*; *trick 



*stopped snoring* 

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Now may I say, that I is but an ape. 

Yet has my fellow somewhat for his harm; 

He has the miller's daughter in his arm: 

He auntred* him, and hath his needes sped. 

And I lie as a draff-sack in my bed; 

And when this jape is told another day, 

I shall be held a daffe* or a cockenay <24> 

I will arise, and auntre* it, by my fay: 

Unhardy is unsely, <25> as men say." 

And up he rose, and softely he went 

Unto the cradle, and in his hand it hent*. 

And bare it soft unto his beddes feet. 

Soon after this the wife *her routing lete*. 

And gan awake, and went her out to piss 

And came again and gan the cradle miss 

And groped here and there, but she found none. 

"Alas!" quoth she, "I had almost misgone 

I had almost gone to the clerkes' bed. 

Ey! Benedicite, then had I fouly-sped." 

And forth she went, till she the cradle fand. 

She groped alway farther with her hand 

And found the bed, and *thoughte not but good* 

Because that the cradle by it stood. 

And wist not where she was, for it was derk; 

But fair and well she crept in by the clerk. 

And lay full still, and would have caught a sleep. 

Within a while this John the Clerk up leap 

And on this goode wife laid on full sore; 

So merry a fit had she not had *full yore*. *for a long time* 

He pricked hard and deep, as he were mad. 


*had no suspicion* 

This jolly life have these two clerkes had. 
Till that the thirde cock began to sing. 
Alein wax'd weary in the morrowing. 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

For he had swonken* all the longe night, *laboured 

And saide; "Farewell, Malkin, my sweet wight. 

The day is come, I may no longer bide. 

But evermore, where so I go or ride, 

I is thine owen clerk, so have I hele.*" *health 

"Now, deare leman*," quoth she, "go, fare wele: *sweetheart 

But ere thou go, one thing I will thee tell. 

When that thou wendest homeward by the mill. 

Right at the entry of the door behind 

Thou shalt a cake of half a bushel fmd. 

That was y-maked of thine owen meal. 

Which that I help'd my father for to steal. 

And goode leman, God thee save and keep." 

And with that word she gan almost to weep. 

Alein uprose and thought, "Ere the day daw 

I will go creepen in by my fellaw:" 

And found the cradle with his hand anon. 

"By God!" thought he, "all wrong I have misgone: 

My head is *totty of my swink* to-night, *giddy from my labour* 

That maketh me that I go not aright. 

I wot well by the cradle I have misgo'; 

Here lie the miller and his wife also." 

And forth he went a twenty devil way 

Unto the bed, there as the miller lay. 

He ween'd* t' have creeped by his fellow John, *thought 

And by the miller in he crept anon. 

And caught him by the neck, and gan him shake. 

And said; "Thou John, thou swines-head, awake 

For Christes soul, and hear a noble game! 

For by that lord that called is Saint Jame, 

As I have thries in this shorte night 

Swived the miller's daughter bolt-upright. 

While thou hast as a coward lain aghast*." *afraid 

"Thou false harlot," quoth the miller, "hast? 

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Ah, false traitor, false clerk," quoth he, 

"Thou shalt be dead, by Godde's dignity. 

Who durste be so bold to disparage* *disgrace 

My daughter, that is come of such lineage?" 

And by the throate-ball* he caught Alein, *Adam's apple 

And he him hent* dispiteously** again, *seized **angrily 

And on the nose he smote him with his fist; 

Down ran the bloody stream upon his breast: 

And in the floor with nose and mouth all broke 

They wallow, as do two pigs in a poke. 

And up they go, and down again anon. 

Till that the miller spurned* on a stone, *stumbled 

And down he backward fell upon his wife. 

That wiste nothing of this nice strife: 

For she was fall'n asleep a little wight* *while 

With John the clerk, that waked had all night: 

And with the fall out of her sleep she braid*. *woke 

"Help, holy cross of Bromeholm," <26> she said; 

"In manus tuas! <27> Lord, to thee I call. 

Awake, Simon, the fiend is on me fall; 

Mine heart is broken; help; I am but dead: 

There li'th one on my womb and on mine head. 

Help, Simkin, for these false clerks do fight" 

This John start up as fast as e'er he might. 

And groped by the walles to and fro 

To find a staff; and she start up also. 

And knew the estres* better than this John, *apartment 

And by the wall she took a staff anon: 

And saw a little shimmering of a light. 

For at an hole in shone the moone bright. 

And by that light she saw them both the two. 

But sickerly* she wist not who was who, *certainly 

But as she saw a white thing in her eye. 

And when she gan this white thing espy. 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

She ween'd* the clerk had wear'd a volupere**; 
And with the staff she drew aye nere* and nere*, 
And ween'd to have hit this Alein at the full, 
And smote the miller on the pilled* skull; 
That down he went, and cried," Harow! I die." 
These clerkes beat him well, and let him lie. 
And greithen* them, and take their horse anon. 
And eke their meal, and on their way they gon: 
And at the mill door eke they took their cake 
Of half a bushel flour, full well y-bake. 

supposed **night-cap 


*make ready, dress 

Thus is the proude miller well y-beat. 
And hath y-lost the grinding of the wheat; 
And payed for the supper *every deal* 
Of Alein and of John, that beat him well; 
His wife is swived, and his daughter als*; 
Lo, such it is a miller to be false. 
And therefore this proverb is said full sooth, 
"*Him thar not winnen well* that evil do'th, 
A guiler shall himself beguiled be:" 
And God that sitteth high in majesty 
Save all this Company, both great and smale. 
Thus have I quit* the Miller in my tale. 

*every bit 


^he deserves not to gain* 

^made myself quits with 

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The Prologue. 

THE Cook of London, while the Reeve thus spake. 

For joy he laugh'd and clapp'd him on the back: 

"Aha!" quoth he, "for Christes passion. 

This Miller had a sharp conclusion. 

Upon this argument of herbergage.* *lodging 

Well saide Solomon in his language. 

Bring thou not every man into thine house. 

For harbouring by night is perilous. 

*Well ought a man avised for to be* *a man should take good heed* 

Whom that he brought into his privity. 

I pray to God to give me sorrow and care 

If ever, since I highte* Hodge of Ware, *was called 

Heard I a miller better *set a-work*; *handled 

He had a jape* of malice in the derk. *trick 

But God forbid that we should stinte* here, *stop 

And therefore if ye will vouchsafe to hear 

A tale of me, that am a poore man, 

I will you tell as well as e'er I can 

A little jape that fell in our city." 

Our Host answer'd and said; "I grant it thee. 
Roger, tell on; and look that it be good. 
For many a pasty hast thou letten blood. 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And many a Jack of Dover< 1 > hast thou sold, 

That had been twice hot and twice cold. 

Of many a pilgrim hast thou Christe's curse, 

For of thy parsley yet fare they the worse. 

That they have eaten in thy stubble goose: 

For in thy shop doth many a fly go loose. 

Now tell on, gentle Roger, by thy name. 

But yet I pray thee be not *wroth for game*; *angry with my jesting* 

A man may say full sooth in game and play." 

"Thou sayst full sooth," quoth Roger, "by my fay; 

But sooth play quad play,<2> as the Fleming saith. 

And therefore, Harry Bailly, by thy faith. 

Be thou not wroth, else we departe* here, *part company 

Though that my tale be of an hostelere.* *innkeeper 

But natheless, I will not tell it yet. 

But ere we part, y-wis* thou shalt be quit."<3 > *assuredly 

And therewithal he laugh'd and made cheer,<4> 

And told his tale, as ye shall after hear. 

The Tale. 

A prentice whilom dwelt in our city. 

And of a craft of victuallers was he: 

Galliard* he was, as goldfmch in the shaw**. 

Brown as a berry, a proper short fellaw: 

With lockes black, combed full fetisly* 

And dance he could so well and jollily. 

That he was called Perkin Revellour. 

He was as full of love and paramour. 

As is the honeycomb of honey sweet; 

Well was the wenche that with him might meet. 

At every bridal would he sing and hop; 

He better lov'd the tavern than the shop. 

*lively **grove 

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For when there any riding was in Cheap, < 1 > 
Out of the shoppe thither would he leap. 
And, till that he had all the sight y-seen. 
And danced well, he would not come again; 
And gather 'd him a meinie* of his sort. 
To hop and sing, and make such disport: 
And there they *sette Steven* for to meet 
To playen at the dice in such a street. 
For in the towne was there no prentice 
That fairer coulde cast a pair of dice 
Than Perkin could; and thereto *he was free 
Of his dispence, in place of privity* where 
That found his master well in his chaffare,* 
For oftentime he found his box full bare. 
For, soothely, a prentice revellour. 
That haunteth dice, riot, and paramour. 
His master shall it in his shop abie*. 
All* have he no part of the minstrelsy. 
For theft and riot they be convertible. 
All can they play on *gitern or ribible.* 
Revel and truth, as in a low degree. 
They be full wroth* all day, as men may see. 


*company of fellows 
*made appointment* 

''he spent money liberally 
he would not be seen* 

*suffer for 

*guitar or rebeck* 

at variance 

This jolly prentice with his master bode. 
Till he was nigh out of his prenticehood. 
All were he snubbed* both early and late. 
And sometimes led with revel to Newgate. 
But at the last his master him bethought. 
Upon a day when he his paper<2> sought. 
Of a proverb, that saith this same word; 
Better is rotten apple out of hoard. 
Than that it should rot all the remenant: 
So fares it by a riotous servant; 
It is well lesse harm to let him pace*. 


pass, go 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Than he shend* all the servants in the place. 
Therefore his master gave him a quittance, 
And bade him go, with sorrow and mischance. 
And thus this jolly prentice had his leve*: 
Now let him riot all the night, or leave*. 
And, for there is no thief without a louke,<3> 
That helpeth him to wasten and to souk* 
Of that he bribe* can, or borrow may. 
Anon he sent his bed and his array 
Unto a compere* of his owen sort. 
That loved dice, and riot, and disport; 
And had a wife, that held *for countenance* 
A shop, and swived* for her sustenance. 





*for appearances* 
*prostituted herself 

^M^ ^Ma/?i' (^L^miP i c!/afe. 

The Prologue. 

Our Hoste saw well that the brighte sun 

Th' arc of his artificial day had run 

The fourthe part, and half an houre more; 

And, though he were not deep expert in lore. 

He wist it was the eight-and-twenty day 

Of April, that is messenger to May; 

And saw well that the shadow of every tree 

Was in its length of the same quantity 

That was the body erect that caused it; 

And therefore by the shadow he took his wit*. 

That Phoebus, which that shone so clear and bright. 

Degrees was five-and-forty clomb on height; 


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And for that day, as in that latitude. 
It was ten of the clock, he gan conclude; 
And suddenly he plight* his horse about. 


*pulled <1> 

"Lordings," quoth he, "I warn you all this rout*, *company 

The fourthe partie of this day is gone. 

Now for the love of God and of Saint John 

Lose no time, as farforth as ye may. 

Lordings, the time wasteth night and day. 

And steals from us, what privily sleeping. 

And what through negligence in our waking. 

As doth the stream, that turneth never again. 

Descending from the mountain to the plain. 

Well might Senec, and many a philosopher, 

Bewaile time more than gold in coffer. 

For loss of chattels may recover 'd be. 

But loss of time shendeth* us, quoth he. *destroys 

It will not come again, withoute dread,* 

No more than will Malkin's maidenhead, <2> 

When she hath lost it in her wantonness. 

Let us not moulde thus in idleness. 

"Sir Man of Law," quoth he, "so have ye bliss. 

Tell us a tale anon, as forword* is. 

Ye be submitted through your free assent 

To stand in this case at my judgement. 

Acquit you now, and *holde your behest*; 

Then have ye done your devoir* at the least." 

"Hoste," quoth he, "de par dieuxjeo asente; <3> 

To breake forword is not mine intent. 

Behest is debt, and I would hold it fain. 

All my behest; I can no better sayn. 

For such law as a man gives another wight. 

He should himselfe usen it by right. 

^the bargain 

*keep your promise* 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Thus will our text: but natheless certain 

I can right now no thrifty* tale sayn, 

But Chaucer (though he *can but lewedly* 

On metres and on rhyming craftily) 

Hath said them, in such English as he can, 

Of olde time, as knoweth many a man. 

And if he have not said them, leve* brother. 

In one book, he hath said them in another 

For he hath told of lovers up and down. 

More than Ovide made of mentioun 

In his Epistolae, that be full old. 

Why should I telle them, since they he told? 

In youth he made of Ceyx and Alcyon,<4> 

And since then he hath spoke of every one 

These noble wives, and these lovers eke. 

Whoso that will his large volume seek 

Called the Saintes' Legend of Cupid:<5> 

There may he see the large woundes wide 

Of Lucrece, and of Babylon Thisbe; 

The sword of Dido for the false Knee; 

The tree of Phillis for her Demophon; 

The plaint of Diane, and of Hermion, 

Of Ariadne, and Hypsipile; 

The barren isle standing in the sea; 

The drown'd Leander for his fair Hero; 

The teares of Helene, and eke the woe 

Of Briseis, and Laodamia; 

The cruelty of thee. Queen Medea, 

Thy little children hanging by the halse*. 

For thy Jason, that was of love so false. 

Hypermnestra, Penelop', Alcest', 

Your wifehood he commendeth with the best. 

But certainly no worde writeth he 

Of *thilke wick'* example of Canace, 

*knows but imperfectly* 



*that wicked* 

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That loved her own brother sinfully; 

(Of all such cursed stories I say, Fy), 

Or else of Tyrius Apollonius, 

How that the cursed king Antiochus 

Bereft his daughter of her maidenhead; 

That is so horrible a tale to read. 

When he her threw upon the pavement. 

And therefore he, *of full avisement*, *deliberately, advisedly* 

Would never write in none of his sermons 

Of such unkind* abominations; *unnatural 

Nor I will none rehearse, if that I may. 

But of my tale how shall I do this day? 

Me were loth to be liken'd doubteless 

To Muses, that men call Pierides<6> 

(Metamorphoseos <7> wot what I mean). 

But natheless I recke not a bean. 

Though I come after him with hawebake*; *lout 

I speak in prose, and let him rhymes make." 

And with that word, he with a sober cheer 

Began his tale, and said as ye shall hear. 


The Tale. 

O scatheful harm, condition of poverty. 

With thirst, with cold, with hunger so confounded; 

To aske help thee shameth in thine hearte; 

If thou none ask, so sore art thou y- wounded. 

That very need unwrappeth all thy wound hid. 

Maugre thine head thou must for indigence 

Or steal, or beg, or borrow thy dispence*. 


Thou blamest Christ, and sayst full bitterly. 
He misdeparteth* riches temporal; 

*allots amiss 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Thy neighebour thou witest* sinfully, 
And sayst, thou hast too little, and he hath all: 
"Parfay (sayst thou) sometime he reckon shall. 
When that his tail shall *brennen in the glede*. 
For he not help'd the needful in their need." 


*burn in the fire* 

Hearken what is the sentence of the wise: 
Better to die than to have indigence. 
*Thy selve* neighebour will thee despise. 
If thou be poor, farewell thy reverence. 
Yet of the wise man take this sentence, 
Alle the days of poore men be wick'*. 
Beware therefore ere thou come to that prick*. 

*that same* 

*wicked, evil 

If thou be poor, thy brother hateth thee. 

And all thy friendes flee from thee, alas! 

O riche merchants, full of wealth be ye, 

O noble, prudent folk, as in this case. 

Your bagges be not fill'd with *ambes ace,* *two aces* 

But with *six-cinque*, that runneth for your chance; <2> *six-five* 

At Christenmass well merry may ye dance. 

Ye seeke land and sea for your winnings. 
As wise folk ye knowen all th' estate 
Of regnes*; ye be fathers of tidings. 
And tales, both of peace and of debate*: 
I were right now of tales desolate*. 
But that a merchant, gone in many a year. 
Me taught a tale, which ye shall after hear. 

*contention, war 
*barren, empty. 

In Syria whilom dwelt a company 
Of chapmen rich, and thereto sad* and true. 
Clothes of gold, and satins rich of hue. 
That widewhere* sent their spicery. 

*grave, steadfast 
*to distant parts 

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Their chaffare* was so thriftly** and so new. 
That every wight had dainty* to chaffare** 
With them, and eke to selle them their ware. 

*wares **advantageous 
*pleasure **deal 

Now fell it, that the masters of that sort 
Have *shapen them* to Rome for to wend. 
Were it for chapmanhood* or for disport. 
None other message would they thither send. 
But come themselves to Rome, this is the end: 
And in such place as thought them a vantage 
For their intent, they took their herbergage.* 

*determined, prepared* 


Sojourned have these merchants in that town 
A certain time as fell to their pleasance: 
And so befell, that th' excellent renown 
Of th' emperore's daughter. Dame Constance, 
Reported was, with every circumstance. 
Unto these Syrian merchants in such wise. 
From day to day, as I shall you devise* 


This was the common voice of every man 

"Our emperor of Rome, God him see*, 

A daughter hath, that since the the world began. 

To reckon as well her goodness and beauty. 

Was never such another as is she: 

I pray to God in honour her sustene*. 

And would she were of all Europe the queen. 

''look on with favour 


"In her is highe beauty without pride. 
And youth withoute greenhood* or folly: 
To all her workes virtue is her guide; 
Humbless hath slain in her all tyranny: 
She is the mirror of all courtesy. 
Her heart a very chamber of holiness. 

*childishness, immaturity 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Her hand minister of freedom for almess* 


And all this voice was sooth, as God is true; 

But now to purpose* let us turn again. *our tale <3> 

These merchants have done freight their shippes new, 

And when they have this blissful maiden seen. 

Home to Syria then they went full fain. 

And did their needes*, as they have done yore,* *business **formerly 

And liv'd in weal*; I can you say no more. *prosperity 

Now fell it, that these merchants stood in grace* 
Of him that was the Soudan* of Syrie: 
For when they came from any strange place 
He would of his benigne courtesy 
Make them good cheer, and busily espy* 
Tidings of sundry regnes*, for to lear** 
The wonders that they mighte see or hear. 


Vealms **learn 

Amonges other thinges, specially 

These merchants have him told of Dame Constance 

So great nobless, in earnest so royally. 

That this Soudan hath caught so great pleasance* *pleasure 

To have her figure in his remembrance. 

That all his lust*, and all his busy cure**, *pleasure **care 

Was for to love her while his life may dure. 

Paraventure in thilke* large book. 

Which that men call the heaven, y-written was 

With starres, when that he his birthe took. 

That he for love should have his death, alas! 

For in the starres, clearer than is glass. 

Is written, God wot, whoso could it read. 

The death of every man withoute dread.* 



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In starres many a winter therebeforn 
Was writ the death of Hector, Achilles, 
Of Pompey, Julius, ere they were born; 
The strife of Thebes; and of Hercules, 
Of Samson, Turnus, and of Socrates 
The death; but mennes wittes be so dull. 
That no wight can well read it at the full. 


This Soudan for his privy council sent. 

And, *shortly of this matter for to pace*. 

He hath to them declared his intent. 

And told them certain, but* he might have grace 

To have Constance, within a little space. 

He was but dead; and charged them in hie* 

To shape* for his life some remedy. 

to pass briefly by* 



Diverse men diverse thinges said; 

And arguments they casten up and down; 

Many a subtle reason forth they laid; 

They speak of magic, and abusion*; 

But fmally, as in conclusion. 

They cannot see in that none avantage. 

Nor in no other way, save marriage. 


Then saw they therein such difficulty 

Byway of reason, for to speak all plain. 

Because that there was such diversity 

Between their bothe lawes, that they sayn. 

They trowe* that no Christian prince would fain*' 

Wedden his child under our lawe sweet. 

That us was given by Mahound* our prophete. 

*believe **willingly 


And he answered: "Rather than I lose 
Constance, I will be christen'd doubteless 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

I must be hers, I may none other choose, 

I pray you hold your arguments in peace, <4> 

Save my life, and be not reckeless 

To gette her that hath my life in cure,* *keeping 

For in this woe I may not long endure." 

What needeth greater dilatation? 

I say, by treaty and ambassadry. 

And by the Pope's mediation. 

And all the Church, and all the chivalry. 

That in destruction of Mah'metry,* *Mahometanism 

And in increase of Christe's lawe dear. 

They be accorded* so as ye may hear; *agreed 

How that the Soudan, and his baronage. 

And all his lieges, shall y-christen'd be. 

And he shall have Constance in marriage. 

And certain gold, I not* what quantity, *know not 

And hereto fmd they suffisant surety 

The same accord is sworn on either side; 

Now, fair Constance, Almighty God thee guide! 

Now woulde some men waiten, as I guess. 

That I should tellen all the purveyance*, *provision 

The which the emperor of his noblesse 

Hath shapen* for his daughter. Dame Constance. *prepared 

Well may men know that so great ordinance 

May no man tellen in a little clause. 

As was arrayed for so high a cause. 

Bishops be shapen with her for to wend, 
Lordes, ladies, and knightes of renown. 
And other folk enough, this is the end. 
And notified is throughout all the town. 

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That every wight with great devotioun 

Should pray to Christ, that he this marriage 

Receive *in gree*, and speede this voyage. *with good will, favour* 


The day is comen of her departing, — 

I say the woful fatal day is come. 

That there may be no longer tarrying. 

But forward they them dressen* all and some. 

Constance, that was with sorrow all o'ercome. 

Full pale arose, and dressed her to wend. 

For well she saw there was no other end. 

prepare to set out 

Alas! what wonder is it though she wept. 

That shall be sent to a strange nation 

From friendes, that so tenderly her kept. 

And to be bound under subjection 

of one, she knew not his condition? 

Husbands be all good, and have been *of yore*. 

That knowe wives; I dare say no more. 


"Father," she said, "thy wretched child Constance, 
Thy younge daughter, foster'd up so soft. 
And you, my mother, my sov'reign pleasance 
Over all thing, out-taken* Christ *on loft*, ' 

Constance your child her recommendeth oft 
Unto your grace; for I shall to Syrie, 
Nor shall I ever see you more with eye. 

^except *on high* 

"Alas! unto the barbarous nation 

I must anon, since that it is your will: 

But Christ, that starP for our redemption, *died 

So give me grace his hestes* to fulfil. *commands 

I, wretched woman, *no force though I spill!* *no matter though 

Women are born to thraldom and penance, I perish* 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And to be under mannes governance." 

I trow at Troy when Pyrrhus brake the wall, 

Or Ilion burnt, or Thebes the city. 

Nor at Rome for the harm through Hannibal, 

That Romans hath y-vanquish'd times three. 

Was heard such tender weeping for pity. 

As in the chamber was for her parting; 

But forth she must, whether she weep or sing. 

O firste moving cruel Firmament,<5> 
With thy diurnal sway that crowdest* aye. 
And hurtlest all from East till Occident 
That naturally would hold another way; 
Thy crowding set the heav'n in such array 
At the beginning of this fierce voyage. 
That cruel Mars hath slain this marriage. 

*pushest together, drivest 

Unfortunate ascendant tortuous. 

Of which the lord is helpless fall'n, alas! 

Out of his angle into the darkest house; 

O Mars, O Atyzar,<6> as in this case; 

O feeble Moon, unhappy is thy pace.* *progress 

Thou knittest thee where thou art not receiv'd. 

Where thou wert well, from thennes art thou weiv'd. <7> 

Imprudent emperor of Rome, alas! 
Was there no philosopher in all thy town? 
Is no time bet* than other in such case? 
Of voyage is there none election. 
Namely* to folk of high condition. 
Not *when a root is of a birth y-know?* 
Alas! we be too lewed*, or too slow. 



when the nativity is known* 


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P ittp:// 149 

To ship was brought this woeful faire maid 

Solemnely, with every circumstance: 

"Now Jesus Christ be with you all," she said. 

There is no more,but "Farewell, fair Constance." 

She *pained her* to make good countenance. *made an effort* 

And forth I let her sail in this manner. 

And turn I will again to my matter. 

The mother of the Soudan, well of vices. 
Espied hath her sone's plain intent. 
How he will leave his olde sacrifices: 
And right anon she for her council sent. 
And they be come, to knowe what she meant. 
And when assembled was this folk *in fere*. 
She sat her down, and said as ye shall hear. 


"Lordes," she said, "ye knowen every one. 
How that my son in point is for to lete* 
The holy lawes of our Alkaron*, 
Given by God's messenger Mahomete: 
But one avow to greate God I hete*. 
Life shall rather out of my body start. 
Than Mahomet's law go out of mine heart. 



"What should us tiden* of this newe law. 
But thraldom to our bodies, and penance. 
And afterward in hell to be y-draw. 
For we *renied Mahound our creance?* 
But, lordes, will ye maken assurance. 
As I shall say, assenting to my lore*? 
And I shall make us safe for evermore." 

*betide, befall 

*denied Mahomet our belieP 


They sworen and assented every man 

To live with her and die, and by her stand: 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And every one, in the best wise he can, 

To strengthen her shall all his friendes fand.* *endeavour<8> 

And she hath this emprise taken in hand. 

Which ye shall heare that I shall devise*; *relate 

And to them all she spake right in this wise. 

"We shall first feign us *Christendom to take*; *embrace Christianity* 

Cold water shall not grieve us but a lite*: *little 

And I shall such a feast and revel make. 

That, as I trow, I shall the Soudan quite.* *requite, match 

For though his wife be christen'd ne'er so white. 

She shall have need to wash away the red. 

Though she a fount of water with her led." 

O Soudaness*, root of iniquity, *Sultaness 

Virago thou, Semiramis the second! 

O serpent under femininity. 

Like to the serpent deep in hell y-bound! 

O feigned woman, all that may confound 

Virtue and innocence, through thy malice. 

Is bred in thee, as nest of every vice! 

O Satan envious! since thilke day 
That thou wert chased from our heritage. 
Well knowest thou to woman th' olde way. 
Thou madest Eve to bring us in servage*: 
Thou wilt fordo* this Christian marriage: 
Thine instrument so (well- away the while!) 
Mak'st thou of women when thou wilt beguile. 

This Soudaness, whom I thus blame and warray*. 
Let privily her council go their way: 
Why should I in this tale longer tarry? 
She rode unto the Soudan on a day. 


oppose, censure 

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And said him, that she would *reny her lay,* 
And Christendom of priestes' handes fong*. 
Repenting her she heathen was so long; 

*renounce her creed* 

Beseeching him to do her that honour. 

That she might have the Christian folk to feast: 

"To please them I will do my labour." 

The Soudan said, "I will do at your best,*" 

And kneeling, thanked her for that request; 

So glad he was, he wist* not what to say. 

She kiss'd her son, and home she went her way. 


Arrived be these Christian folk to land 
In Syria, with a great solemne rout. 
And hastily this Soudan sent his sond,* 
First to his mother, and all the realm about. 
And said, his wife was comen out of doubt. 
And pray'd them for to ride again* the queen. 
The honour of his regne* to sustene. 


to meet 

Great was the press, and rich was the array 
Of Syrians and Romans met *in fere*. 
The mother of the Soudan rich and gay 
Received her with all so glad a cheer* 
As any mother might her daughter dear 
And to the nexte city there beside 
A softe pace solemnely they ride. 

m company 

Nought, trow I, the triumph of Julius 
Of which that Lucan maketh such a boast. 
Was royaller, or more curious. 
Than was th' assembly of this blissful host 
But O this scorpion, this wicked ghost,* 
The Soudaness, for all her flattering 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Cast* under this full mortally to sting. 


The Soudan came himself soon after this, 

So royally, that wonder is to tell. 

And welcomed her with all joy and bliss. 

And thus in mirth and joy I let them dwell. 

The fruit of his matter is that I tell; 

When the time came, men thought it for the best 

That revel stint,* and men go to their rest. 

The time is come that this old Soudaness 
Ordained hath the feast of which I told. 
And to the feast the Christian folk them dress 
In general, yea, bothe young and old. 
There may men feast and royalty behold. 
And dainties more than I can you devise; 
But all too dear they bought it ere they rise. 

O sudden woe, that ev'r art successour 

To worldly bliss! sprent* is with bitterness 

Th' end of our joy, of our worldly labour; 

Woe *occupies the fme* of our gladness. 

Hearken this counsel, for thy sickerness*: 

Upon thy glade days have in thy mind 

The unware* woe of harm, that comes behind. 


*seizes the end* 


For, shortly for to tell it at a word. 
The Soudan and the Christians every one 
Were all *to-hewn and sticked* at the board. 
But it were only Dame Constance alone. 
This olde Soudaness, this cursed crone. 
Had with her friendes done this cursed deed. 
For she herself would all the country lead. 

cut to pieces 

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Nor there was Syrian that was converted. 
That of the counsel of the Soudan wot*. 
That was not all to-hewn, ere he asterted*: 
And Constance have they ta'en anon foot-hot*. 
And in a ship all steereless,* God wot. 
They have her set, and bid her learn to sail 
Out of Syria *again-ward to Itale.* 

A certain treasure that she thither lad,* 
And, sooth to say, of victual great plenty. 
They have her giv'n, and clothes eke she had 
And forth she sailed in the salte sea: 
O my Constance, full of benignity, 
O emperores younge daughter dear. 
He that is lord of fortune be thy steer*! 

*without rudder 

*back to Italy* 


*rudder, guide 

She bless'd herself, and with full piteous voice 

Unto the cross of Christ thus saide she; 

"O dear, O wealful* altar, holy cross, *blessed, beneficent 

Red of the Lambes blood, full of pity. 

That wash'd the world from old iniquity. 

Me from the fiend and from his clawes keep. 

That day that I shall drenchen* in the deepe. *drown 

"Victorious tree, protection of the true. 

That only worthy were for to bear 

The King of Heaven, with his woundes new. 

The white Lamb, that hurt was with a spear; 

Flemer* of fiendes out of him and her 

On which thy limbes faithfully extend, < 10 > 

Me keep, and give me might my life to mend.' 

banisher, driver out 

Yeares and days floated this creature 
Throughout the sea of Greece, unto the strait 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

*Morocco; Gibraltar 

Of Maroc*, as it was her a venture: 

On many a sorry meal now may she bait, 

After her death full often may she wait*, *expect 

Ere that the wilde waves will her drive 

Unto the place *there as* she shall arrive. *where 

Men mighten aske, why she was not slain? 

Eke at the feast who might her body save? 

And I answer to that demand again. 

Who saved Daniel in the horrible cave. 

Where every wight, save he, master or knave*, *servant 

Was with the lion frett*, ere he astart?** *devoured ** escaped 

No wight but God, that he bare in his heart. 

God list* to shew his wonderful miracle 
In her, that we should see his mighty workes: 
Christ, which that is to every harm triacle*. 
By certain meanes oft, as knowe clerkes*. 
Doth thing for certain ende, that full derk is 
To manne's wit, that for our, ignorance 
Ne cannot know his prudent purveyance*. 

Now since she was not at the feast y-slaw,* 

Who kepte her from drowning in the sea? 

Who kepte Jonas in the fish's maw. 

Till he was spouted up at Nineveh? 

Well may men know, it was no wight but he 

That kept the Hebrew people from drowning. 

With drye feet throughout the sea passing. 

Who bade the foure spirits of tempest,<ll> 
That power have t' annoye land and sea. 
Both north and south, and also west and east, 
Annoye neither sea, nor land, nor tree? 

*it pleased 

*remedy, salve 


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Soothly the commander of that was he 
That from the tempest aye this woman kept. 
As well when she awoke as when she slept. 


Where might this woman meat and drinke have? 

Three year and more how lasted her vitaille*? 

Who fed the Egyptian Mary in the cave 

Or in desert? no wight but Christ *sans faille.* 

Five thousand folk it was as great marvaille 

With loaves five and fishes two to feed 

God sent his foison* at her greate need. 

She drived forth into our ocean 
Throughout our wilde sea, till at the last 
Under an hold*, that nempnen** I not can. 
Far in Northumberland, the wave her cast 
And in the sand her ship sticked so fast 
That thennes would it not in all a tide: <12> 
The will of Christ was that she should abide. 

The Constable of the castle down did fare* 
To see this wreck, and all the ship he sought*. 
And found this weary woman full of care; 
He found also the treasure that she brought: 
In her language mercy she besought. 
The life out of her body for to twin*. 
Her to deliver of woe that she was in. 

A manner Latin corrupt < 13> was her speech. 
But algate* thereby was she understond. 
The Constable, when him list no longer seech*. 
This woeful woman brought he to the lond. 
She kneeled down, and thanked *Godde's sond*; 
But what she was she would to no man say 


*without fail* 


*castle ' 




*what God had sent* 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

For foul nor fair, although that she should dey.* 

She said, she was so mazed in the sea. 
That she forgot her minde, by her truth. 
The Constable had of her so great pity 
And eke his wife, that they wept for ruth:* 
She was so diligent withoute slouth 
To serve and please every one in that place. 
That all her lov'd, that looked in her face. 

The Constable and Dame Hermegild his wife 
Were Pagans, and that country everywhere; 
But Hermegild lov'd Constance as her life; 
And Constance had so long sojourned there 
In orisons, with many a bitter tear. 
Till Jesus had converted through His grace 
Dame Hermegild, Constabless of that place. 

In all that land no Christians durste rout;* 
All Christian folk had fled from that country 
Through Pagans, that conquered all about 
The plages* of the North by land and sea. 
To Wales had fled the *Christianity 
Of olde Britons,* dwelling in this isle; 
There was their refuge for the meanewhile. 




regions, coasts 
the Old Britons who 
were Christians* 

But yet n'ere* Christian Britons so exiled. 
That there n'ere* some which in their privity 
Honoured Christ, and heathen folk beguiled; 
And nigh the castle such there dwelled three: 
And one of them was blind, and might not see. 
But* it were with thilk* eyen of his mind. 
With which men maye see when they be blind. 

*there were 

*except **those 

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Bright was the sun, as in a summer's day. 

For which the Constable, and his wife also. 

And Constance, have y-take the righte way 

Toward the sea a furlong way or two. 

To playen, and to roame to and fro; 

And in their walk this blinde man they met. 

Crooked and old, with eyen fast y-shet.* *shut 

"In the name of Christ," cried this blind Briton, 

"Dame Hermegild, give me my sight again!" 

This lady *wax'd afrayed of that soun',* *was alarmed by that cry* 

Lest that her husband, shortly for to sayn. 

Would her for Jesus Christe's love have slain. 

Till Constance made her hold, and bade her wirch* *work 

The will of Christ, as daughter of holy Church 


The Constable wax'd abashed* of that sight. 
And saide; *"What amounteth all this fare?"* 
Constance answered; "Sir, it is Christ's might. 
That helpeth folk out of the fiendes snare:" 
And *so farforth* she gan our law declare. 
That she the Constable, ere that it were eve. 
Converted, and on Christ made him believe. 

This Constable was not lord of the place 
Of which I speak, there as he Constance fand,* 
But kept it strongly many a winter space. 
Under Alia, king of Northumberland, 
That was full wise, and worthy of his hand 
Against the Scotes, as men may well hear; 
But turn I will again to my mattere. 

Satan, that ever us waiteth to beguile. 
Saw of Constance all her perfectioun. 


*what means all 

this ado?* 

*with such effect* 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And *cast anon how he might quite her while;* *considered how to have 

And made a young knight, that dwelt in that town, revenge on her* 

Love her so hot of foul affectioun. 

That verily him thought that he should spill* *perish 

But* he of her might ones have his will. *unless 

He wooed her, but it availed nought; 

She woulde do no sinne by no way: 

And for despite, he compassed his thought 

To make her a shameful death to dey;* 

He waiteth when the Constable is away. 

And privily upon a night he crept 

In Hermegilda's chamber while she slept. 


Weary, forwaked* in her orisons, 

Sleepeth Constance, and Hermegild also. 

This knight, through Satanas' temptation; 

All softetly is to the bed y-go,* 

And cut the throat of Hermegild in two. 

And laid the bloody knife by Dame Constance, 

And went his way, there God give him mischance, 

having been long awake 


Soon after came the Constable home again. 

And eke Alia that king was of that land. 

And saw his wife dispiteously* slain. 

For which full oft he wept and wrung his hand; 

And ill the bed the bloody knife he fand 

By Dame Constance: Alas! what might she say? 

For very woe her wit was all away. 


To King Alia was told all this mischance 
And eke the time, and where, and in what wise 
That in a ship was founden this Constance, 
As here before ye have me heard devise:* 


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The kinges heart for pity *gan agrise,* 
When he saw so benign a creature 
Fall in disease* and in misaventure. 


*to be grieved, to tremble* 

For as the lamb toward his death is brought. 

So stood this innocent before the king: 

This false knight, that had this treason wrought, 

*Bore her in hand* that she had done this thing: *accused her falsely* 

But natheless there was great murmuring 

Among the people, that say they cannot guess 

That she had done so great a wickedness. 

For they had seen her ever virtuous. 
And loving Hermegild right as her life: 
Of this bare witness each one in that house. 
Save he that Hermegild slew with his knife: 
This gentle king had *caught a great motife* 
Of this witness, and thought he would inquere 
Deeper into this case, the truth to lear.* 

Alas! Constance, thou has no champion. 
Nor fighte canst thou not, so well-away! 
But he that starf for our redemption. 
And bound Satan, and yet li'th where he lay. 
So be thy stronge champion this day: 
For, but Christ upon thee miracle kithe,* 
Withoute guilt thou shalt be slain *as swithe.* 

She set her down on knees, and thus she said; 
"Immortal God, that savedest Susanne 
From false blame; and thou merciful maid, 
Mary I mean, the daughter to Saint Anne, 
Before whose child the angels sing Osanne,* 
If I be guiltless of this felony. 

*been greatly moved 
by the evidence* 





Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

My succour be, or elles shall I die." 

Have ye not seen sometime a pale face 

(Among a press) of him that hath been lad* *led 

Toward his death, where he getteth no grace. 

And such a colour in his face hath had. 

Men mighte know him that was so bestad* *bested, situated 

Amonges all the faces in that rout? 

So stood Constance, and looked her about. 

O queenes living in prosperity. 

Duchesses, and ye ladies every one. 

Have some ruth* on her adversity! *pity 

An emperor's daughter, she stood alone; 

She had no wight to whom to make her moan. 

O blood royal, that standest in this drede,* *danger 

Far be thy friendes in thy greate need! 

This king Alia had such compassioun. 
As gentle heart is full filled of pity. 
That from his eyen ran the water down 
"Now hastily do fetch a book," quoth he; 
"And if this knight will sweare, how that she 
This woman slew, yet will we us advise* 
Whom that we will that shall be our justice." 


A Briton book, written with Evangiles,* 
Was fetched, and on this book he swore anon 
She guilty was; and, in the meanewhiles. 
An hand him smote upon the necke bone. 
That down he fell at once right as a stone: 
And both his eyen burst out of his face 
In sight of ev'rybody in that place. 

*the Gospels 

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A voice was heard, in general audience. 

That said; "Thou hast deslander'd guilteless 

The daughter of holy Church in high presence; 

Thus hast thou done, and yet *hold I my peace?" 

Of this marvel aghast was all the press. 

As mazed folk they stood every one 

For dread of wreake,* save Constance alone. 


*shall I be silent?* 


Great was the dread and eke the repentance 
Of them that hadde wrong suspicion 
Upon this sely* innocent Constance; 
And for this miracle, in conclusion. 
And by Constance's mediation. 
The king, and many another in that place. 
Converted was, thanked be Christe's grace! 

*simple, harmless 

This false knight was slain for his untruth 

By judgement of Alia hastily; 

And yet Constance had of his death great ruth;* 

And after this Jesus of his mercy 

Made Alia wedde full solemnely 

This holy woman, that is so bright and sheen. 

And thus hath Christ y-made Constance a queen. 


But who was woeful, if I shall not lie. 

Of this wedding but Donegild, and no mo'. 

The kinge's mother, full of tyranny? 

Her thought her cursed heart would burst in two; 

She would not that her son had done so; 

Her thought it a despite that he should take 

So strange a creature unto his make.* 

mate, consort 

Me list not of the chaff nor of the stre* 
Make so long a tale, as of the corn. 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

What should I tellen of the royalty 

Of this marriage, or which course goes beforn, 

Who bloweth in a trump or in an horn? 

The fruit of every tale is for to say; 

They eat and drink, and dance, and sing, and play. 

They go to bed, as it was skill* and right; *reasonable 

For though that wives be full holy things. 

They muste take in patience at night 

Such manner* necessaries as be pleasings *kind of 

To folk that have y-wedded them with rings. 

And lay *a lite* their holiness aside *a little oP 

As for the time, it may no better betide. 

On her he got a knave* child anon. 

And to a Bishop and to his Constable eke 

He took his wife to keep, when he is gone 

To Scotland-ward, his foemen for to seek. 

Now fair Constance, that is so humble and meek. 

So long is gone with childe till that still 

She held her chamb'r, abiding Christe's will 

*male <14> 

The time is come, a knave child she bare; 

Mauricius at the font-stone they him call. 

This Constable *doth forth come* a messenger. 

And wrote unto his king that clep'd was All', 

How that this blissful tiding is befall. 

And other tidings speedful for to say 

He* hath the letter, and forth he go'th his way. 

*caused to come forth* 

*i.e. the messenger 

This messenger, to *do his avantage,* 
Unto the kinge's mother rideth swithe,* 
And saluteth her full fair in his language. 
"Madame," quoth he, "ye maybe glad and blithe. 

promote his own interest* 

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And thanke God an hundred thousand sithe;* 
My lady queen hath child, withoute doubt. 
To joy and bliss of all this realm about. 



"Lo, here the letter sealed of this thing. 
That I must bear with all the haste I may: 
If ye will aught unto your son the king, 
I am your servant both by night and day." 
Donegild answer 'd, "As now at this time, nay; 
But here I will all night thou take thy rest. 
To-morrow will I say thee what me lest.*" 

This messenger drank sadly* ale and wine. 
And stolen were his letters privily 
Out of his box, while he slept as a swine; 
And counterfeited was full subtilly 
Another letter, wrote full sinfully. 
Unto the king, direct of this mattere 
From his Constable, as ye shall after hear. 


This letter said, the queen deliver'd was 
Of so horrible a fiendlike creature. 
That in the castle none so hardy* was 
That any while he durst therein endure: 
The mother was an elf by aventure 
Become, by charmes or by sorcery. 
And every man hated her company. 


Woe was this king when he this letter had seen. 

But to no wight he told his sorrows sore. 

But with his owen hand he wrote again, 

"Welcome the sond* of Christ for evermore *will, sending 

To me, that am now learned in this lore: 

Lord, welcome be thy lust* and thy pleasance, *will, pleasure 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

My lust I put all in thine ordinance. 

"Keepe* this child, albeit foul or fair, 
And eke my wife, unto mine homecoming: 
Christ when him list may send to me an heir 
More agreeable than this to my liking." 
This letter he sealed, privily weeping. 
Which to the messenger was taken soon. 
And forth he went, there is no more to do'n.* 



O messenger full fill'd of drunkenness. 
Strong is thy breath, thy limbes falter aye. 
And thou betrayest alle secretness; 
Thy mind is lorn,* thou janglest as a jay; 
Thy face is turned in a new array;* 
Where drunkenness reigneth in any rout,* 
There is no counsel hid, withoute doubt. 



O Donegild, I have no English dign* 
Unto thy malice, and thy tyranny: 
And therefore to the fiend I thee resign. 
Let him indite of all thy treachery 
Ty, mannish,* fy! O nay, by God I lie; 
Fy, fiendlike spirit! for I dare well tell. 
Though thou here walk, thy spirit is in hell. 


*unwomanly woman 

This messenger came from the king again. 
And at the kinge's mother's court he light,* 
And she was of this messenger full fain,* 
And pleased him in all that e'er she might. 
He drank, and *well his girdle underpight*; 
He slept, and eke he snored in his guise 
All night, until the sun began to rise. 


*stowed away (liquor) 
under his girdle* 

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Eft* were his letters stolen every one. 
And counterfeited letters in this wise: 
The king commanded his Constable anon. 
On pain of hanging and of high jewise,* 
That he should suffer in no manner wise 
Constance within his regne* for to abide 
Three dayes, and a quarter of a tide; 

But in the same ship as he her fand. 
Her and her younge son, and all her gear. 
He shoulde put, and crowd* her from the land. 
And charge her, that she never eft come there. 
O my Constance, well may thy ghost* have fear. 
And sleeping in thy dream be in penance,* 




When Donegild cast* all this ordinance.^ 


*pain, trouble 
*contrived **plan, plot 

This messenger, on morrow when he woke. 

Unto the castle held the nexte* way. 

And to the constable the letter took; 

And when he this dispiteous* letter sey,** 

Full oft he said, "Alas, and well-away! 

Lord Christ," quoth he, "how may this world endure? 

So full of sin is many a creature. 


cruel ' 

"O mighty God, if that it be thy will. 
Since thou art rightful judge, how may it be 
That thou wilt suffer innocence to spill,* 
And wicked folk reign in prosperity? 
Ah! good Constance, alas! so woe is me. 
That I must be thy tormentor, or dey* 
A shameful death, there is no other way. 

Wept bothe young and old in all that place. 
When that the king this cursed letter sent; 

*be destroyed 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And Constance, with a deadly pale face, 
The fourthe day toward her ship she went. 
But natheless she took in good intent 
The will of Christ, and kneeling on the strond* 
She saide, "Lord, aye welcome be thy sond* 

*strand, shore 
^whatever thou sendest 

"He that me kepte from the false blame. 

While I was in the land amonges you. 

He can me keep from harm and eke from shame 

In the salt sea, although I see not how 

As strong as ever he was, he is yet now. 

In him trust I, and in his mother dere. 

That is to me my sail and eke my stere."* 

*rudder, guide 

Her little child lay weeping in her arm 
And, kneeling, piteously to him she said 
"Peace, little son, I will do thee no harm:" 
With that her kerchief off her head she braid,* 
And over his little eyen she it laid. 
And in her arm she lulled it full fast. 
And unto heav'n her eyen up she cast. 

*took, drew 

"Mother," quoth she, "and maiden bright, Mary, 
Sooth is, that through a woman's eggement* 
Mankind was lorn,* and damned aye to die; 
For which thy child was on a cross y-rent:* 
Thy blissful eyen saw all his torment. 
Then is there no comparison between 
Thy woe, and any woe man may sustene. 

incitement, egging on 
*torn, pierced 

"Thou saw'st thy child y-slain before thine eyen. 

And yet now lives my little child, parfay:* *by my faith 

Now, lady bright, to whom the woeful cryen. 

Thou glory of womanhood, thou faire may,* *maid 

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Thou haven of refuge, bright star of day. 

Rue* on my child, that of thy gentleness *take pity 

Ruest on every rueful* in distress. *sorrowful person 


"O little child, alas! what is thy guilt. 
That never wroughtest sin as yet, pardie?* 
Why will thine harde* father have thee spilt?** 
O mercy, deare Constable," quoth she, 
"And let my little child here dwell with thee: 
And if thou dar'st not save him from blame. 
So kiss him ones in his father's name." 

*par Dieu; by God 
*cruel **destroyed 

Therewith she looked backward to the land. 
And saide, "Farewell, husband rutheless!" 
And up she rose, and walked down the strand 
Toward the ship, her following all the press:* 
And ever she pray'd her child to hold his peace. 
And took her leave, and with an holy intent 
She blessed her, and to the ship she went. 


Victualed was the ship, it is no drede,* *doubt 

Abundantly for her a full long space: 

And other necessaries that should need* *be needed 

She had enough, heried* be Godde's grace: *praised < 15 > 

For wind and weather. Almighty God purchase,* *provide 

And bring her home; I can no better say; 

But in the sea she drived forth her way. 

Alia the king came home soon after this 
Unto the castle, of the which I told. 
And asked where his wife and his child is; 
The Constable gan about his heart feel cold. 
And plainly all the matter he him told 
As ye have heard; I can tell it no better; 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And shew'd the king his seal, and eke his letter 

And saide; "Lord, as ye commanded me 
On pain of death, so have I done certain." 
The messenger tormented* was, till he 
Muste beknow,* and tell it flat and plain. 
From night to night in what place he had lain; 
And thus, by wit and subtle inquiring, 
Imagin'd was by whom this harm gan spring. 

*confess <16> 

The hand was known that had the letter wrote. 
And all the venom of the cursed deed; 
But in what wise, certainly I know not. 
Th' effect is this, that Alia, *out of drede,* 
His mother slew, that may men plainly read. 
For that she traitor was to her liegeance:* 
Thus ended olde Donegild with mischance. 

Vithout doubt* 


The sorrow that this Alia night and day 
Made for his wife, and for his child also. 
There is no tongue that it telle may. 
But now will I again to Constance go. 
That floated in the sea in pain and woe 
Five year and more, as liked Christe's sond,* 
Ere that her ship approached to the lond.* 

*decree, command 

Under an heathen castle, at the last. 
Of which the name in my text I not fmd, 
Constance and eke her child the sea upcast. 
Almighty God, that saved all mankind. 
Have on Constance and on her child some mind. 
That fallen is in heathen hand eftsoon* *again 

*In point to spill,* as I shall tell you soon! *in danger of 


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Down from the castle came there many a wight 

To gauren* on this ship, and on Constance: *gaze, stare 

But shortly from the castle, on a night. 

The lorde's steward, — God give him mischance, — 

A thief that had *renied our creance,* *denied our faith* 

Came to the ship alone, and said he would 

Her leman* be, whether she would or n'ould. *illicit lover 


Woe was this wretched woman then begone; 

Her child cri'd, and she cried piteously: 

But blissful Mary help'd her right anon. 

For, with her struggling well and mightily. 

The thief fell overboard all suddenly. 

And in the sea he drenched* for vengeance. 

And thus hath Christ unwemmed* kept Constance. 



O foul lust of luxury! lo thine end! 

Not only that thou faintest* manne's mind. 

But verily thou wilt his body shend.* 

Th' end of thy work, or of thy lustes blind. 

Is complaining: how many may men fmd. 

That not for work, sometimes, but for th' intent 

To do this sin, be either slain or shent? 


How may this weake woman have the strength 
Her to defend against this renegate? 
O Goliath, unmeasurable of length. 
How mighte David make thee so mate?* 
So young, and of armour so desolate,* 
How durst he look upon thy dreadful face? 
Well may men see it was but Godde's grace. 


Who gave Judith courage or hardiness 
To slay him, Holofernes, in his tent. 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And to deliver out of wretchedness 
The people of God? I say for this intent 
That right as God spirit of vigour sent 
To them, and saved them out of mischance, 
So sent he might and vigour to Constance. 

Forth went her ship throughout the narrow mouth 

Of *Jubaltare and Septe,* driving alway, *Gibraltar and Ceuta* 

Sometime west, and sometime north and south. 

And sometime east, full many a weary day: 

Till Christe's mother (blessed be she aye) 

Had shaped* through her endeless goodness *resolved, arranged 

To make an end of all her heaviness. 

Now let us stint* of Constance but a throw,** 

And speak we of the Roman emperor. 

That out of Syria had by letters know 

The slaughter of Christian folk, and dishonor 

Done to his daughter by a false traitor, 

I mean the cursed wicked Soudaness, 

That at the feast *let slay both more and less.* 

and low to be killed^ 
For which this emperor had sent anon 
His senator, with royal ordinance. 
And other lordes, God wot, many a one. 
On Syrians to take high vengeance: 
They burn and slay, and bring them to mischance 
Full many a day: but shortly this is th' end. 
Homeward to Rome they shaped them to wend. 

^cease speaking 
**short time 

caused both high 

This senator repaired with victory 
To Rome-ward, sailing full royally. 
And met the ship driving, as saith the story. 
In which Constance sat full piteously: 

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And nothing knew he what she was, nor why 

She was in such array; nor she will say 

Of her estate, although that she should dey* *die 


He brought her unto Rome, and to his wife 
He gave her, and her younge son also: 
And with the senator she led her life. 
Thus can our Lady bringen out of woe 
Woeful Constance, and many another mo': 
And longe time she dwelled in that place. 
In holy works ever, as was her grace. 

The senatores wife her aunte was. 

But for all that she knew her ne'er the more: 

I will no longer tarry in this case. 

But to King Alia, whom I spake of yore. 

That for his wife wept and sighed sore, 

I will return, and leave I will Constance 

Under the senatores governance. 

King Alia, which that had his mother slain. 

Upon a day fell in such repentance; 

That, if I shortly tell it shall and plain. 

To Rome he came to receive his penitance. 

And put him in the Pope's ordinance 

In high and low, and Jesus Christ besought 

Forgive his wicked works that he had wrought. 

The fame anon throughout the town is borne. 

How Alia king shall come on pilgrimage. 

By harbingers that wente him beforn. 

For which the senator, as was usage. 

Rode *him again,* and many of his lineage. 

As well to show his high magnificence. 

*to meet him* 

Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

As to do any king a reverence. 

Great cheere* did this noble senator *courtesy 

To King Alia and he to him also; 

Each of them did the other great honor; 

And so befell, that in a day or two 

This senator did to King Alia go 

To feast, and shortly, if I shall not lie, 

Constance s son went in his company 

Some men would say,<17> at request of Constance 

This senator had led this child to feast: 

I may not tellen every circumstance. 

Be as be may, there was he at the least: 

But sooth is this, that at his mother's best* *behest 

Before Alia during *the meates space,* *meal time* 

The child stood, looking in the kinges face. 

This Alia king had of this child great wonder. 

And to the senator he said anon, 

"Whose is that faire child that standeth yonder?" 

"I n'ot,"* quoth he, "by God and by Saint John; *know not 

A mother he hath, but father hath he none. 

That I of wot:" and shortly in a stound* 
He told to Alia how this child was found. 

*short time <18> 

"But God wot," quoth this senator also, 

"So virtuous a liver in all my life 

I never saw, as she, nor heard of mo' 

Of worldly woman, maiden, widow or wife: 

I dare well say she hadde lever* a knife 

Throughout her breast, than be a woman wick',* 

There is no man could bring her to that prick.* 



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Now was this child as like unto Constance 

As possible is a creature to be: 

This Alia had the face in remembrance 

Of Dame Constance, and thereon mused he. 

If that the childe's mother *were aught she* 

That was his wife; and privily he sight,* 

And sped him from the table *that he might.* 


*could be she* 
*as fast as he could* 

"Parfay,"* thought he, "phantom** is in mine head. 

I ought to deem, of skilful judgement. 

That in the salte sea my wife is dead." 

And afterward he made his argument, 

"What wot I, if that Christ have hither sent 

My wife by sea, as well as he her sent 

To my country, from thennes that she went?" 

*by my faith 
*a fantasy 

And, after noon, home with the senator. 

Went Alia, for to see this wondrous chance. 

This senator did Alia great honor. 

And hastily he sent after Constance: 

But truste well, her liste not to dance. 

When that she wiste wherefore was that sond,* 

Unneth* upon her feet she mighte stand. 

*with difficulty 

When Alia saw his wife, fair he her gret,* 

And wept, that it was ruthe for to see. 

For at the firste look he on her set 

He knew well verily that it was she: 

And she, for sorrow, as dumb stood as a tree: 

So was her hearte shut in her distress. 

When she remember 'd his unkindeness. 


Twice she swooned in his owen sight. 
He wept and him excused piteously: 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

"Now God," quoth he, "and all his hallows bright* *saints 

So wisly* on my soule have mercy, *surely 

That of your harm as guilteless am I, 

As is Maurice my son, so like your face. 

Else may the fiend me fetch out of this place." 

Long was the sobbing and the bitter pain. 

Ere that their woeful heartes mighte cease; 

Great was the pity for to hear them plain,* *lament 

Through whiche plaintes gan their woe increase. 

I pray you all my labour to release, 

I may not tell all their woe till to-morrow, 

I am so weary for to speak of sorrow. 

But finally, when that the *sooth is wist,* *truth is known* 

That Alia guiltless was of all her woe, 

I trow an hundred times have they kiss'd. 

And such a bliss is there betwixt them two. 

That, save the joy that lasteth evermo'. 

There is none like, that any creature 

Hath seen, or shall see, while the world may dure. 

Then prayed she her husband meekely 

In the relief of her long piteous pine,* *sorrow 

That he would pray her father specially. 

That of his majesty he would incline 

To vouchesafe some day with him to dine: 

She pray'd him eke, that he should by no way 

Unto her father no word of her say. 

Some men would say,<17> how that the child Maurice 
Did this message unto the emperor: 

But, as I guess. Alia was not so nice,* *foolish 

To him that is so sovereign of honor 

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As he that is of Christian folk the flow'r. 
Send any child, but better 'tis to deem 
He went himself; and so it may well seem. 

This emperor hath granted gentilly 

To come to dinner, as he him besought: 

And well rede* I, he looked busily 

Upon this child, and on his daughter thought. 

Alia went to his inn, and as him ought 

Arrayed* for this feast in every wise, 

*As farforth as his cunning* may suffice. 


*guess, know 

as far as his skill* 

The morrow came, and Alia gan him dress,* *make ready 

And eke his wife, the emperor to meet: 

And forth they rode in joy and in gladness. 

And when she saw her father in the street. 

She lighted down and fell before his feet. 

"Father," quoth she, "your younge child Constance 

Is now full clean out of your remembrance. 

"I am your daughter, your Constance," quoth she, 

"That whilom ye have sent into Syrie; 

It am I, father, that in the salt sea 

Was put alone, and damned* for to die. *condemned 

Now, goode father, I you mercy cry. 

Send me no more into none heatheness. 

But thank my lord here of his kindeness." 

Who can the piteous joye tellen all. 

Betwixt them three, since they be thus y-met? 

But of my tale make an end I shall. 

The day goes fast, I will no longer let.* *hinder 

These gladde folk to dinner be y-set; 

In joy and bliss at meat I let them dwell. 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

A thousand fold well more than I can tell. 

This child Maurice was since then emperor 

Made by the Pope, and lived Christianly, 

To Christe's Churche did he great honor: 

But I let all his story passe by, 

Of Constance is my tale especially. 

In the olde Roman gestes* men may fmd 

Maurice's life, I bear it not in mind. 


This King Alia, when he his time sey,* 
With his Constance, his holy wife so sweet. 
To England are they come the righte way. 
Where they did live in joy and in quiet. 
But little while it lasted, I you hete,* 
Joy of this world for time will not abide. 
From day to night it changeth as the tide. 


Who liv'd ever in such delight one day. 
That him not moved either conscience. 
Or ire, or talent, or *some kind affray* 
Envy, or pride, or passion, or offence? 
I say but for this ende this sentence,* 
That little while in joy or in pleasance 
Lasted the bliss of Alia with Constance. 

*some kind of disturbance* 

*judgment, opinion* 

For death, that takes of high and low his rent. 
When passed was a year, even as I guess. 
Out of this world this King Alia he hent,* 
For whom Constance had full great heaviness. 
Now let us pray that God his soule bless: 
And Dame Constance, fmally to say. 
Toward the town of Rome went her way. 


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P ittp:// \jj 

To Rome is come this holy creature. 

And fmdeth there her friendes whole and sound: 

Now is she scaped all her aventure: 

And when that she her father hath y- found, 

Down on her knees falleth she to ground. 

Weeping for tenderness in hearte blithe 

She herieth* God an hundred thousand sithe.** *praises **times 

In virtue and in holy almes-deed 

They liven all, and ne'er asunder wend; 

Till death departeth them, this life they lead: 

And fare now well, my tale is at an end 

Now Jesus Christ, that of his might may send 

Joy after woe, govern us in his grace 

And keep us alle that be in this place. 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 


The Prologue. 

Experience, though none authority* 

Were in this world, is right enough for me 

To speak of woe that is in marriage: 

For, lordings, since I twelve year was of age, 

(Thanked be God that *is etern on live),* 

Husbands at the church door have I had five, < 2 

For I so often have y-wedded be. 

And all were worthy men in their degree. 

But me was told, not longe time gone is 

That sithen* Christe went never but ones 

To wedding, in the Cane* of Galilee, 

That by that ilk* example taught he me. 

That I not wedded shoulde be but once. 

Lo, hearken eke a sharp word for the nonce,* 

Beside a wellejesus, God and man. 

Spake in reproof of the Samaritan: 

"Thou hast y-had five husbandes," said he; 

"And thilke* man, that now hath wedded thee. 

Is not thine husband:" <3> thus said he certain; 

What that he meant thereby, I cannot sayn. 

But that I aske, why the fifthe man 

Was not husband to the Samaritan? 

*authoritative texts 

*lives eternally* 



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. my life* 


How many might she have in marriage? 

Yet heard I never tellen *in mine age* 

Upon this number definitioun. 

Men may divine, and glosen* up and down; 

But well I wot, express without a lie, 

God bade us for to wax and multiply; 

That gentle text can I well understand. 

Eke well I wot, he said, that mine husband 

Should leave father and mother, and take to me; 

But of no number mention made he. 

Of bigamy or of octogamy; 

Why then should men speak of it villainy?* *as if it were a disgrace 

Lo here, the wise king Dan* Solomon, *Lord <4> 

I trow that he had wives more than one; 

As would to God it lawful were to me 

To be refreshed half so oft as he! 

What gift* of God had he for all his wives? *special favour, licence 

No man hath such, that in this world alive is. 

God wot, this noble king, *as to my wit,* 

The first night had many a merry fit 

With each of them, so *well was him on live.* 

Blessed be God that I have wedded five! 

Welcome the sixth whenever that he shall. 

For since I will not keep me chaste in all. 

When mine husband is from the world y-gone. 

Some Christian man shall wedde me anon. 

For then th' apostle saith that I am free 

To wed, *a' God's half,* where it liketh me. 

He saith, that to be wedded is no sin; 

Better is to be wedded than to brin.* 

What recketh* me though folk say villainy** 

Of shrewed* Lamech, and his bigamy? 

I wot well Abraham was a holy man. 

*as I understand* 

*so well he lived* 

*on God's part* 

*care **evil 
*impious, wicked 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And Jacob eke, as far as ev'r I can.* 

And each of them had wives more than two; 

And many another holy man also. 

Where can ye see, *in any manner age,* 

That highe God defended* marriage 

By word express? I pray you tell it me; 

Or where commanded he virginity? 

I wot as well as you, it is no dread,* 

Th' apostle, when he spake of maidenhead. 

He said, that precept thereof had he none: 

Men may counsel a woman to be one,* 

But counseling is no commandement; 

He put it in our owen judgement. 

For, hadde God commanded maidenhead. 

Then had he damned* wedding out of dread: 

And certes, if there were no seed y-sow,* 

Virginity then whereof should it grow? 

Paul durste not commanden, at the least, 

A thing of which his Master gave no best.* 

The dart* is set up for virginity; 

Catch whoso may, who runneth best let see. 

But this word is not ta'en of every wight, 

*But there as* God will give it of his might. 

I wot well that th' apostle was a maid. 

But natheless, although he wrote and said. 

He would that every wight were such as he. 

All is but counsel to virginity. 

And, since to be a wife he gave me leave 

Of indulgence, so is it no repreve* 

To wedde me, if that my make* should die. 

Without exception* of bigamy; 

*A11 were it* good no woman for to touch 

(He meant as in his bed or in his couch). 

For peril is both fire and tow t'assemble 


*in any period* 
*forbade <5> 


*a maid 

** *condemned **doubt 


*goal <6> 

*except where* 

*scandal, reproach 

*mate, husband 
*charge, reproach 
*though it might be* 

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Ye know what this example may resemble. 
This is all and some, he held virginity 
More profit than wedding in frailty: 
(*Frailty clepe I, but if that he and she 
Would lead their lives all in chastity), 
I grant it well, I have of none envy 
Who maidenhead prefer to bigamy; 
It liketh them t' be clean in body and ghost;* 
Of mine estate* I will not make a boast. 

frailty I call it, 



For, well ye know, a lord in his household 

Hath not every vessel all of gold; <7> 

Some are of tree, and do their lord service. 

God calleth folk to him in sundry wise. 

And each one hath of God a proper gift. 

Some this, some that, as liketh him to shift.* *appoint, distribute 

Virginity is great perfection. 

And continence eke with devotion: 

But Christ, that of perfection is the well,* *fountain 

Bade not every wight he should go sell 

All that he had, and give it to the poor. 

And in such wise follow him and his lore:* *doctrine 

He spake to them that would live perfectly, — 

And, lordings, by your leave, that am not I; 

I will bestow the flower of mine age 

In th' acts and in the fruits of marriage. 

Tell me also, to what conclusion* *end, purpose 

Were members made of generation. 

And of so perfect wise a wight* y-wrought? *being 

Trust me right well, they were not made for nought. 

Glose whoso will, and say both up and down. 

That they were made for the purgatioun 

Of urine, and of other thinges smale. 

And eke to know a female from a male: 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And for none other cause? say ye no? 

Experience wot well it is not so. 

So that the clerkes* be not with me wroth, *scholars 

I say this, that they were made for both. 

That is to say, *for office, and for ease* *for duty and 

Of engendrure, there we God not displease. for pleasure* 

Why should men elles in their bookes set. 

That man shall yield unto his wife her debt? 

Now wherewith should he make his payement. 

If he us'd not his silly instrument? 

Then were they made upon a creature 

To purge urine, and eke for engendrure. 

But I say not that every wight is hold,* *obliged 

That hath such harness* as I to you told, *equipment 

To go and use them in engendrure; 

Then should men take of chastity no cure.* *care 

Christ was a maid, and shapen* as a man, *fashioned 

And many a saint, since that this world began. 

Yet ever liv'd in perfect chastity. 

I will not vie* with no virginity. *contend 

Let them with bread of pured* wheat be fed, *purified 

And let us wives eat our barley bread. 

And yet with barley bread, Mark tell us can,< 8 > 

Our Lord Jesus refreshed many a man. 

In such estate as God hath *cleped us,* *called us to 

I'll persevere, I am not precious,* *over-dainty 

In wifehood I will use mine instrument 

As freely as my Maker hath it sent. 

If I be dangerous* God give me sorrow; *sparing of my favours 

Mine husband shall it have, both eve and morrow. 

When that him list come forth and pay his debt. 

A husband will I have, I *will no let,* *will bear no hindrance* 

Which shall be both my debtor and my thrall,* *slave 

And have his tribulation withal 

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Upon his flesh, while that I am his wife. 

I have the power during all my life 

Upon his proper body, and not he; 

Right thus th' apostle told it unto me. 

And bade our husbands for to love us well; 

All this sentence me liketh every deal.* *whit 


Up start the Pardoner, and that anon; 

"Now, Dame," quoth he, "by God and by Saint John, 

Ye are a noble preacher in this case. 

I was about to wed a wife, alas! 

What? should I bie* it on my flesh so dear? 

Yet had I lever* wed no wife this year." 

"Abide,"* quoth she; "my tale is not begun 

Nay, thou shalt drinken of another tun 

Ere that I go, shall savour worse than ale. 

And when that I have told thee forth my tale 

Of tribulation in marriage. 

Of which I am expert in all mine age, 

(This is to say, myself hath been the whip). 

Then mayest thou choose whether thou wilt sip 

Of *thilke tunne,* that I now shall broach. 

Beware of it, ere thou too nigh approach. 

For I shall tell examples more than ten: 

Whoso will not beware by other men. 

By him shall other men corrected be: 

These same wordes writeth Ptolemy; 

Read in his Almagest, and take it there." 

"Dame, I would pray you, if your will it were," 

Saide this Pardoner, "as ye began. 

Tell forth your tale, and spare for no man. 

And teach us younge men of your practique." 

"Gladly," quoth she, "since that it may you like. 

But that I pray to all this company. 

*suffer for 
Wait in patience 

*that tun* 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

If that I speak after my fantasy, 

To take nought agrieP what I may say; 

For mine intent is only for to play. 

*to heart 

Now, Sirs, then will I tell you forth my tale. 

As ever may I drinke wine or ale 

I shall say sooth; the husbands that I had 

Three of them were good, and two were bad 

The three were goode men, and rich, and old 

*Unnethes mighte they the statute hold* *they could with difficulty 

In which that they were bounden unto me. obey the law* 

Yet wot well what I mean of this, pardie.* *by God 

As God me help, I laugh when that I think 

How piteously at night I made them swink,* *labour 

But, *by my fay, I told of it no store:* *by my faith, I held it 

They had me giv'n their land and their treasor, of no account* 

Me needed not do longer diligence 

To win their love, or do them reverence. 

They loved me so well, by God above. 

That I *tolde no dainty* of their love. *cared nothing for* 

A wise woman will busy her ever-in-one* *constantly 

To get their love, where that she hath none. 

But, since I had them wholly in my hand. 

And that they had me given all their land. 

Why should I take keep* them for to please, *care 

But* it were for my profit, or mine ease? *unless 

I set them so a-worke, by my fay. 

That many a night they sange, well-away! 

The bacon was not fetched for them, I trow. 

That some men have in Essex at Dunmow.<9> 

I govern'd them so well after my law. 

That each of them full blissful was and fawe* *fain 

To bringe me gay thinges from the fair. 

They were full glad when that I spake them fair. 

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For, God it wot, I *chid them spiteously* 
Now hearken how I bare me properly. 


*rebuked them angrily* 

Ye wise wives, that can understand. 

Thus should ye speak, and *bear them wrong on hand,* 

*make them 

For half so boldely can there no man 
Swearen and lien as a woman can. 
(I say not this by wives that be wise, 
*But iP it be when they them misadvise.) 
A wise wife, if that she can* her good. 
Shall *beare them on hand* the cow is wood. 
And take witness of her owen maid 
Of their assent: but hearken how I said. 
"Sir olde kaynard,<10> is this thine array? 
Why is my neigheboure's wife so gay? 
She is honour 'd *over all where* she go'th, 
I sit at home, I have no *thrifty cloth.* 
What dost thou at my neigheboure's house? 
Is she so fair? art thou so amorous? 
What rown'st* thou with our maid? benedicite. 
Sir olde lechour, let thy japes* be. 
And if I have a gossip, or a friend 
(Withoute guilt), thou chidest as a fiend. 
If that I walk or play unto his house. 
Thou comest home as drunken as a mouse. 
And preachest on thy bench, with evil prefe:* 
Thou say St to me, it is a great mischief 
To wed a poore woman, for costage:* 
And if that she be rich, of high parage;* 
Then say'st thou, that it is a tormentry 
To suffer her pride and melancholy. 
And if that she be fair, thou very knave. 
Thou say'st that every holour* will her have; 
She may no while in chastity abide. 

believe falsely* 

unless* *act unadvisedly 
*make them believe* 

*good clothes* 



^ birth <11> 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

That is assailed upon every side. 

Thou say St some folk desire us for richess, 

Some for our shape, and some for our fairness, 

And some, for she can either sing or dance. 

And some for gentiless and dalliance. 

Some for her handes and her armes smale: 

Thus goes all to the devil, by thy tale; 

Thou say'st, men may not keep a castle wall 

That may be so assailed *over all.* *everywhere* 

And if that she be foul, thou say'st that she 

Coveteth every man that she may see; 

For as a spaniel she will on him leap. 

Till she may fmde some man her to cheap;* *buy 

And none so grey goose goes there in the lake, 

(So say'st thou) that will be without a make.* *mate 

And say'st, it is a hard thing for to weld *wield, govern 

A thing that no man will, *his thankes, held.* *hold with his goodwill* 

Thus say'st thou, lorel,* when thou go'st to bed, *good-for-nothing 

And that no wise man needeth for to wed. 

Nor no man that intendeth unto heaven. 

With wilde thunder dint* and fiery leven** * stroke **lightning 

Mote* thy wicked necke be to-broke. *may 

Thou say'st, that dropping houses, and eke smoke. 

And chiding wives, make men to flee 

Out of their owne house; ah! ben'dicite. 

What aileth such an old man for to chide? 

Thou say'st, we wives will our vices hide. 

Till we be fast,* and then we will them shew. *wedded 

Well may that be a proverb of a shrew* *ill- tempered wretch 

Thou say'st, that oxen, asses, horses, hounds. 

They be *assayed at diverse stounds,* *tested at various 

Basons and lavers, ere that men them buy, seasons 

Spoones, stooles, and all such husbandry. 

And so be pots, and clothes, and array,* *raiment 

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But folk of wives make none assay. 

Till they be wedded, — olde dotard shrew! — 

And then, say'st thou, we will our vices shew. 

Thou say'st also, that it displeaseth me. 

But if* that thou wilt praise my beauty, *unless 

And but* thou pore alway upon my face, *unless 

And call me faire dame in every place; 

And but* thou make a feast on thilke** day *unless **that 

That I was born, and make me fresh and gay; 

And but thou do to my norice* honour, *nurse < 12> 

And to my chamberere* within my bow'r, *chamber-maid 

And to my father's folk, and mine allies;* *relations 

Thus sayest thou, old barrel full of lies. 

And yet also of our prentice Jenkin, 

For his crisp hair, shining as gold so fme. 

And for he squireth me both up and down. 

Yet hast thou caught a false suspicioun: 

I will him not, though thou wert dead to-morrow. 

But tell me this, why hidest thou, *with sorrow. 

The keyes of thy chest away from me? 

It is my good* as well as thine, pardie. 

What, think'st to make an idiot of our dame? 

Now, by that lord that called is Saint Jame, 

Thou shalt not both, although that thou wert wood. 

Be master of my body, and my good,* 

The one thou shalt forego, maugre* thine eyen. 

What helpeth it of me t 'inquire and spyen? 

I trow thou wouldest lock me in thy chest. 

Thou shouldest say, Tair wife, go where thee lest; 

Take your disport; I will believe no tales; 

I know you for a true wife. Dame Ales.'* *Alice 

We love no man, that taketh keep* or charge *car( 

Where that we go; we will be at our large. 

Of alle men most blessed may he be. 

sorrow on thee!* 


*in spite of 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

The wise astrologer Dan* Ptolemy, *Lord 

That saith this proverb in his Almagest: < 13 > 

'Of alle men his wisdom is highest, 

That recketh not who hath the world in hand. 

By this proverb thou shalt well understand. 

Have thou enough, what thar* thee reck or care *needs, behoves 

How merrily that other folkes fare? 

For certes, olde dotard, by your leave. 

Ye shall have [pleasure] <14> right enough at eve. 

He is too great a niggard that will werne* *forbid 

A man to light a candle at his lantern; 

He shall have never the less light, pardie. 

Have thou enough, thee thar* not plaine** thee *need **complain 

Thou say'st also, if that we make us gay 

With clothing and with precious array. 

That it is peril of our chastity. 

And yet, — with sorrow! — thou enforcest thee. 

And say'st these words in the apostle's name: 

'In habit made with chastity and shame* *modesty 

Ye women shall apparel you,' quoth he,<15> 

'And not in tressed hair and gay perrie,* *jewels 

As pearles, nor with gold, nor clothes rich.' 

After thy text nor after thy rubrich 

I will not work as muchel as a gnat. 

Thou say'st also, I walk out like a cat; 

For whoso woulde singe the catte's skin 

Then will the catte well dwell in her inn;* *house 

And if the catte's skin be sleek and gay. 

She will not dwell in house half a day. 

But forth she will, ere any day be daw'd. 

To shew her skin, and go a caterwaw'd.* *caterwauling 

This is to say, if I be gay, sir shrew, 

I will run out, my borel* for to shew. *apparel, fme clothes 

Sir olde fool, what helpeth thee to spyen? 

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Though thou pray Argus with his hundred eyen 
To be my wardecorps,* as he can best *body-guard 

In faith he shall not keep me, *but me lest:* *unless I please* 

Yet could I *make his beard,* so may I the. *make a jest of him* 


"Thou sayest eke, that there be thinges three, *thrive 

Which thinges greatly trouble all this earth. 

And that no wighte may endure the ferth:* *fourth 

O lefe* sir shrew, may Jesus short** thy life. *pleasant **shorten 

Yet preachest thou, and say'st, a hateful wife 

Y-reckon'd is for one of these mischances. 

Be there *none other manner resemblances* *no other kind of 

That ye may liken your parables unto, comparison* 

But if a silly wife be one of tho?* *those 

Thou likenest a woman's love to hell; 

To barren land where water may not dwell. 

Thou likenest it also to wild fire; 

The more it burns, the more it hath desire 

To consume every thing that burnt will be. 

Thou sayest, right as wormes shend* a tree, *destroy 

Right so a wife destroyeth her husbond; 

This know they well that be to wives bond." 

*made them believe* 

Lordings, right thus, as ye have understand, 
*Bare I stiffly mine old husbands on hand,* 
That thus they saiden in their drunkenness; 
And all was false, but that I took witness 
On Jenkin, and upon my niece also. 

Lord! the pain I did them, and the woe, 
'Full guilteless, by Godde's sweete pine;* 
For as a horse I coulde bite and whine; 

1 coulde plain,* an'** I was in the guilt, *complain **even though 
Or elles oftentime I had been spilt* *ruined 
Whoso first Cometh to the nilll, first grint;* *is ground 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

I plained first, so was our war y-stint.* *stopped 

They were full glad to excuse them full blive* *quickly 

Of things that they never *aguilt their live.* *were guilty in their 

Of wenches would I *beare them on hand,* *falsely accuse them* 

When that for sickness scarcely might they stand. 
Yet tickled I his hearte for that he 

Ween'd* that I had of him so great cherte:** *though **affection< 16> 
I swore that all my walking out by night 

Was for to espy wenches that he dight:* *adorned 

Under that colour had I many a mirth. 
For all such wit is given us at birth; 
Deceit, weeping, and spinning, God doth give 
To women kindly, while that they may live. *naturally 

And thus of one thing I may vaunte me. 
At th' end I had the better in each degree. 
By sleight, or force, or by some manner thing. 
As by continual murmur or grudging,* *complaining 

Namely* a-bed, there hadde they mischance, *especially 

There would I chide, and do them no pleasance: 
I would no longer in the bed abide. 
If that I felt his arm over my side. 
Till he had made his ransom unto me. 

Then would I suffer him do his nicety* *folly < 17> 

And therefore every man this tale I tell. 
Win whoso may, for all is for to sell; 
With empty hand men may no hawkes lure; 
For winning would I all his will endure. 
And make me a feigned appetite. 

And yet in bacon* had I never delight: *i.e. of Dunmow <9> 

That made me that I ever would them chide. 
For, though the Pope had sitten them beside, 
I would not spare them at their owen board. 
For, by my troth, I quit* them word for word *repaid 

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As help me very God omnipotent. 

Though I right now should make my testament 

I owe them not a word, that is not quit* *repaid 

I brought it so aboute by my wit. 

That they must give it up, as for the best 

Or elles had we never been in rest. 

For, though he looked as a wood* lion, *furious 

Yet should he fail of his conclusion. 

Then would I say, "Now, goode lefe* tak keep** *dear **heed 

How meekly looketh Wilken oure sheep! 

Come near, my spouse, and let me ba* thy cheek *kiss <18> 

Ye shoulde be all patient and meek. 

And have a *sweet y-spiced* conscience, *tender, nice* 

Since ye so preach of Jobe's patience. 

Suffer alway, since ye so well can preach. 

And but* ye do, certain we shall you teach* *unless 

That it is fair to have a wife in peace. 

One of us two must bowe* doubteless: *give way 

And since a man is more reasonable 

Than woman is, ye must be suff 'rable. 

What aileth you to grudge* thus and groan? *complain 

Is it for ye would have my [love] < 14> alone? 

Why, take it all: lo, have it every deal,* *whit 

Peter! < 19> shrew* you but ye love it well *curse 

For if I woulde sell my *belle chose*, *beautiful thing* 

I coulde walk as fresh as is a rose. 

But I will keep it for your owen tooth. 

Ye be to blame, by God, I say you sooth." 

Such manner wordes hadde we on hand. 


Now will I speaken of my fourth husband. 
My fourthe husband was a revellour; 
This is to say, he had a paramour. 
And I was young and full of ragerie,* 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 



Stubborn and strong, and jolly as a pie.* 

Then could I dance to a harpe smale, 

And sing, y-wis,* as any nightingale. 

When I had drunk a draught of sweete wine. 

Metellius, the foule churl, the swine. 

That with a staff bereft his wife of life 

For she drank wine, though I had been his wife. 

Never should he have daunted me from drink: 

And, after wine, of Venus most I think. 

For all so sure as cold engenders hail, 

A liquorish mouth must have a liquorish tail. 

In woman vinolent* is no defence,** *full of wine *resistance 

This knowe lechours by experience. 

But, lord Christ, when that it rememb'reth me 

Upon my youth, and on my jollity. 

It tickleth me about mine hearte-root; 

Unto this day it doth mine hearte boot,* 

That I have had my world as in my time. 

But age, alas! that all will envenime,* 

Hath me bereft my beauty and my pith:* 

Let go; farewell; the devil go therewith. 

The flour is gon, there is no more to tell. 

The bran, as I best may, now must I sell. 

But yet to be right merry will I fand.* 

Now forth to tell you of my fourth husband, 

I say, I in my heart had great despite. 

That he of any other had delight; 

But he was quit,* by God and by Saint Joce:<21> 

I made for him of the same wood a cross; 

Not of my body in no foul mannere. 

But certainly I made folk such cheer. 

That in his owen grease I made him fry 

For anger, and for very jealousy. 

By God, in earth I was his purgatory. 

*poison, embitter 


*requited, paid back 

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For which I hope his soul may be in glory. 
For, God it wot, he sat full oft and sung. 
When that his shoe full bitterly him wrung.* 
There was no wight, save God and he, that wist 
In many wise how sore I did him twist. < 20 > 
He died when I came from Jerusalem, 
And lies in grave under the *roode beam:* 
Although his tomb is not so curious 
As was the sepulchre of Darius, 
Which that Apelles wrought so subtlely 
It is but waste to bury them preciously. 
Let him fare well, God give his soule rest. 
He is now in his grave and in his chest. 


Now of my fifthe husband will I tell: 
God let his soul never come into hell. 
And yet was he to me the moste shrew;* 
That feel I on my ribbes all *by rew,* 
And ever shall, until mine ending day. 
But in our bed he was so fresh and gay. 
And therewithal so well he could me glose,'^ 
When that he woulde have my belle chose. 
Though he had beaten me on every bone. 
Yet could he win again my love anon. 
I trow, I lov'd him better, for that he 
Was of his love so dangerous* to me. 
We women have, if that I shall not lie. 
In this matter a quainte fantasy. 
Whatever thing we may not lightly have. 
Thereafter will we cry all day and crave. 
Forbid us thing, and that desire we; 
Press on us fast, and thenne will we flee. 
With danger* utter we all our chaffare;** 
Great press at market maketh deare ware. 

*cruel, ill-tempered 
*in a row 


*sparing, difficult 

'difficulty **merchandise 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And too great cheap is held at little price; 

This knoweth every woman that is wise. 

My fifthe husband, God his soule bless, 

Which that I took for love and no richess. 

He some time was *a clerk of Oxenford,* *a scholar of Oxford* 

And had left school, and went at home to board 

With my gossip,* dwelling in oure town: *godmother 

God have her soul, her name was Alisoun. 

She knew my heart, and all my privity. 

Bet than our parish priest, so may I the.* *thrive 

To her betrayed I my counsel all; 

For had my husband pissed on a wall. 

Or done a thing that should have cost his life. 

To her, and to another worthy wife. 

And to my niece, which that I loved well, 

I would have told his counsel every deal.* *jot 

And so I did full often, God it wot. 

That made his face full often red and hot 

For very shame, and blam'd himself, for he 

Had told to me so great a privity* *secret 

And so befell that ones in a Lent 

(So oftentimes I to my gossip went. 

For ever yet I loved to be gay. 

And for to walk in March, April, and May 

From house to house, to heare sundry tales). 

That Jenkin clerk, and my gossip. Dame Ales, 

And I myself, into the fieldes went. 

Mine husband was at London all that Lent; 

I had the better leisure for to play. 

And for to see, and eke for to be sey* *seen 

Of lusty folk; what wist I where my grace* *favour 

Was shapen for to be, or in what place? *appointed 

Therefore made I my visitations 

To vigilies,* and to processions, *festival-eves<22> 

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To preachings eke, and to these pilgrimages. 

To plays of miracles, and marriages. 

And weared upon me gay scarlet gites.* 

These wormes, nor these mothes, nor these mites 

On my apparel frett* them never a deal** *fed ' 

And know'st thou why? for they were used* well. 

Now will I telle forth what happen'd me: 

I say, that in the fieldes walked we. 

Till truely we had such dalliance. 

This clerk and I, that of my purveyance* 

I spake to him, and told him how that he. 

If I were widow, shoulde wedde me. 

For certainly, I say for no bobance,* 

Yet was I never without purveyance* 

Of marriage, nor of other thinges eke: 

I hold a mouse's wit not worth a leek. 

That hath but one hole for to starte* to,<24> 

And if that faile, then is all y-do.* 

[*I bare him on hand* he had enchanted me 

(My dame taughte me that subtilty); 

And eke I said, I mette* of him all night. 

He would have slain me, as I lay upright. 

And all my bed was full of very blood; 

But yet I hop'd that he should do me good; 

For blood betoken'd gold, as me was taught. 

And all was false, I dream'd of him right naught. 

But as I follow'd aye my dame's lore. 

As well of that as of other things more.] <2S> 

But now, sir, let me see, what shall I sayn? 

Aha! by God, I have my tale again. 

When that my fourthe husband was on bier, 

I wept algate* and made a sorry cheer,** *always **countenance 

As wives must, for it is the usage; 

And with my kerchief covered my visage; 


falsely assured him* 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 




*see note <26> 

But, for I was provided with a make,* 

I wept but little, that I undertake* 

To churche was mine husband borne a-morrow 

With neighebours that for him made sorrow. 

And Jenkin, oure clerk, was one of tho:* 

As help me God, when that I saw him go 

After the bier, methought he had a pair 

Of legges and of feet so clean and fair. 

That all my heart I gave unto his hold.* 

He was, I trow, a twenty winter old. 

And I was forty, if I shall say sooth. 

But yet I had always a colte's tooth. 

Gat-toothed* I was, and that became me well, 

I had the print of Sainte Venus' seal. 

[As help me God, I was a lusty one. 

And fair, and rich, and young, and *well begone:* *in a good way* 

For certes I am all venerian* *under the influence of Venus 

In feeling, and my heart is martian;* *under the influence of Mars 

Venus me gave my lust and liquorishness. 

And Mars gave me my sturdy hardiness.] <25> 

Mine ascendant was Taure,* and Mars therein: *Taurus 

Alas, alas, that ever love was sin! 

I follow'd aye mine inclination 

By virtue of my constellation: 

That made me that I coulde not withdraw 

My chamber of Venus from a good fellaw 

[Yet have I Marte's mark upon my face. 

And also in another privy place. 

For God so wisly* be my salvation, *certainly 

I loved never by discretion. 

But ever follow'd mine own appetite. 

All* were he short, or long, or black, or white, *whether 

I took no keep,* so that he liked me, *heed 

How poor he was, neither of what degree.] <25> 

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What should I say? but that at the month's end 

This jolly clerk Jenkin, that was so hend,* 

Had wedded me with great solemnity. 

And to him gave I all the land and fee 

That ever was me given therebefore: 

But afterward repented me full sore. 

He woulde suffer nothing of my list.* 

By God, he smote me ones with his fist. 

For that I rent out of his book a leaf. 

That of the stroke mine eare wax'd all deaf 

Stubborn I was, as is a lioness. 

And of my tongue a very jangleress,* 

And walk I would, as I had done beforn. 

From house to house, although he had it sworn:' 

For which he oftentimes woulde preach 

And me of olde Roman gestes* teach 

How that Sulpitius Gallus left his wife 

And her forsook for term of all his 

For nought but open-headed* he her say** 

Looking out at his door upon a day. 

Another Roman <27> told he me by name. 

That, for his wife was at a summer game 

Without his knowing, he forsook her eke. 

And then would he upon his Bible seek 

That ilke* proverb of Ecclesiast, 

Where he commandeth, and forbiddeth fast, 

Man shall not suffer his wife go roll about. 

Then would he say right thus withoute doubt: 

"Whoso that buildeth his house all of sallows,* 

And pricketh his blind horse over the fallows. 

And suff 'reth his wife to *go seeke hallows,* 

Is worthy to be hanged on the gallows." 

But all for nought; I *sette not a haw* 

Of his proverbs, nor of his olde saw; 




*had sworn to 
prevent it 

*bare-headed **saw 

*make pilgrimages* 
^cared nothing for* 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Nor would I not of him corrected be. 

I hate them that my vices telle me, 

And so do more of us (God wot) than I. 

This made him wood* with me all utterly; *furious 

I woulde not forbear* him in no case. *endure 

Now will I say you sooth, by Saint Thomas, 

Why that I rent out of his book a leaf. 

For which he smote me, so that I was deaf 

He had a book, that gladly night and day 

For his disport he would it read alway; 

He call'd it Valerie, < 28 > andTheophrast, 

And with that book he laugh'd alway full fast. 

And eke there was a clerk sometime at Rome, 

A cardinal, that highte Saint Jerome, 

That made a book against Jovinian, 

Which book was there; and ekeTertullian, 

Chrysippus,Trotula, and Heloise, 

That was an abbess not far from Paris; 

And eke the Parables* of Solomon, *Proverbs 

Ovide's Art, <29> and bourdes* many one; *jests 

And alle these were bound in one volume. 

And every night and day was his custume 

(When he had leisure and vacation 

From other worldly occupation) 

To readen in this book of wicked wives. 

He knew of them more legends and more lives 

Than be of goodde wives in the Bible. 

For, trust me well, it is an impossible 

That any clerk will speake good of wives, 

(*But iP it be of holy saintes' lives) *unless 

Nor of none other woman never the mo'. 

Who painted the lion, tell it me, who? 

By God, if women haddde written stories. 

As clerkes have within their oratories. 

Upon a night Jenkin, that was our sire,* 
Read on his book, as he sat by the fire. 
Of Eva first, that for her wickedness 
Was all mankind brought into wretchedness, 
For which that Jesus Christ himself was slain. 
That bought us with his hearte-blood again. 
Lo here express of women may ye find 
That woman was the loss of all mankind. 
Then read he me how Samson lost his hairs 
Sleeping, his leman cut them with her shears. 
Through whiche treason lost he both his eyen. 
Then read he me, if that I shall not lien. 
Of Hercules, and of his Dejanire, 
That caused him to set himself on fire. 
Nothing forgot he of the care and woe 


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They would have writ of men more wickedness 

Than all the mark of Adam <30> may redress 

The children of Mercury and of Venus,<31> 

Be in their working full contrarious. 

Mercury loveth wisdom and science. 

And Venus loveth riot and dispence.* 

And for their diverse disposition. 

Each falls in other s exaltation. 

As thus, God wot. Mercury is desolate 

In Pisces, where Venus is exaltate. 

And Venus falls where Mercury is raised. <32> 

Therefore no woman by no clerk is praised. 

The clerk, when he is old, and may not do 

Of Venus' works not worth his olde shoe. 

Then sits he down, and writes in his dotage. 

That women cannot keep their marriage. 

But now to purpose, why I tolde thee 

That I was beaten for a book, pardie. 




Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

That Socrates had with his wives two; 

HowXantippe cast piss upon his head. 

This silly man sat still, as he were dead, 

He wip'd his head, and no more durst he sayn. 

But, "Ere the thunder stint* there cometh rain." *ceases 

Of Phasiphae, that was queen of Crete, 

For shrewedness* he thought the tale sweet. *wickedness 

Fy, speak no more, it is a grisly thing. 

Of her horrible lust and her liking. 

Of Clytemnestra, for her lechery 

That falsely made her husband for to die. 

He read it with full good devotion. 

He told me eke, for what occasion 

Amphiorax at Thebes lost his life: 

My husband had a legend of his wife 

Eryphile, that for an ouche* of gold *clasp, collar 

Had privily unto the Greekes told. 

Where that her husband hid him in a place. 

For which he had at Thebes sorry grace. 

Of Luna told he me, and of Lucie; 

They bothe made their husbands for to die. 

That one for love, that other was for hate. 

Luna her husband on an ev'ning late 

Empoison'd had, for that she was his foe: 

Lucia liquorish lov'd her husband so. 

That, for he should always upon her think. 

She gave him such a manner* love-drink, *sort of 

That he was dead before it were the morrow: 

And thus algates* husbands hadde sorrow. *always 

Then told he me how one Latumeus 

Complained to his fellow Arius 

That in his garden growed such a tree. 

On which he said how that his wives three 

Hanged themselves for heart dispiteous. 

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"O leve* brother," quoth this Arius, *dear 

"Give me a plant of thilke* blessed tree, *that 

And in my garden planted shall it be." 

Of later date of wives hath he read. 

That some have slain their husbands in their bed. 

And let their *lechour dight them* all the night, *lover ride them* 

While that the corpse lay on the floor upright: 

And some have driven nails into their brain. 

While that they slept, and thus they have them slain: 

Some have them given poison in their drink: 

He spake more harm than hearte may bethink. 

And therewithal he knew of more proverbs. 

Than in this world there groweth grass or herbs. 

"Better (quoth he) thine habitation 

Be with a lion, or a foul dragon. 

Than with a woman using for to chide. 

Better (quoth he) high in the roof abide. 

Than with an angry woman in the house. 

They be so wicked and contrarious: 

They hate that their husbands loven aye." 

He said, "A woman cast her shame away 

When she cast off her smock;" and farthermo', 

"A fair woman, but* she be chaste also, *except 

Is like a gold ring in a sowe's nose. 

Who coulde ween,* or who coulde suppose *think 

The woe that in mine heart was, and the pine?* *pain 

And when I saw that he would never fme* *fmish 

To readen on this cursed book all night. 

All suddenly three leaves have I plight* *plucked 

Out of his book, right as he read, and eke 

I with my fist so took him on the cheek. 

That in our fire he backward fell adown. 

And he up start, as doth a wood* lion, *furious 

And with his fist he smote me on the head. 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

That on the floor I lay as I were dead. 

And when he saw how still that there I lay, 

He was aghast, and would have fled away. 

Till at the last out of my swoon I braid,* *woke 

"Oh, hast thou slain me, thou false thief?" I said 

"And for my land thus hast thou murder'd me? 

Ere I be dead, yet will I kisse thee." 

And near he came, and kneeled fair adown. 

And saide", "Deare sister Alisoun, 

As help me God, I shall thee never smite: 

That I have done it is thyself to wite,* *blame 

Forgive it me, and that I thee beseek."* *beseech 

And yet eftsoons* I hit him on the cheek, *immediately; again 

And saidde, "Thief, thus much am I awreak.* *avenged 

Now will I die, I may no longer speak." 

But at the last, with muche care and woe 

We fell accorded* by ourselves two: *agreed 

He gave me all the bridle in mine hand 

To have the governance of house and land. 

And of his tongue, and of his hand also. 

I made him burn his book anon right tho.* *then 

And when that I had gotten unto me 

By mast'ry all the sovereignety. 

And that he said, "Mine owen true wife. 

Do *as thee list,* the term of all thy life, *as pleases thee* 

Keep thine honour, and eke keep mine estate; 

After that day we never had debate. 

God help me so, I was to him as kind 

As any wife from Denmark unto Ind, 

And also true, and so was he to me: 

I pray to God that sits in majesty 

So bless his soule, for his mercy dear. 

Now will I say my tale, if ye will hear. — 

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The Friar laugh'd when he had heard all this: 
"Now, Dame," quoth he, "so have I joy and bliss. 
This is a long preamble of a tale." 
And when the Sompnour heard the Friar gale,* 
"Lo," quoth this Sompnour, "Godde's armes two. 


A friar will intermete* him evermo': 

Lo, goode men, a fly and eke a frere 

Will fall in ev'ry dish and eke mattere. 

What speak'st thou of perambulation?* 

What? amble or trot; or peace, or go sit down: 

Thou lettest* our disport in this mattere." 

"Yea, wilt thou so. Sir Sompnour?" quoth the Frere; 

"Now by my faith I shall, ere that I go. 

Tell of a Sompnour such a tale or two. 

That all the folk shall laughen in this place." 

"Now do, else. Friar, I beshrew* thy face," 

Quoth this Sompnour; "and I beshrewe me. 

But iP I telle tales two or three 

Of friars, ere I come to Sittingbourne, 

That I shall make thine hearte for to mourn: 

For well I wot thy patience is gone." 

Our Hoste cried, "Peace, and that anon;" 

And saide, "Let the woman tell her tale. 

Ye fare* as folk that drunken be of ale. 

Do, Dame, tell forth your tale, and that is best." 

"All ready, sir," quoth she, "right as you lest,* 

If I have licence of this worthy Frere." 

"Yes, Dame," quoth he, "tell forth, and I will hear. 

interpose <33> 







Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

The Tale. 

In olde dayes of the king Arthour, 

Of which that Britons speake great honour, 

All was this land full fill'd of faerie;* *fairies 

The Elf-queen, with her jolly company, 

Danced full oft in many a green mead 

This was the old opinion, as I read; 

I speak of many hundred years ago; 

But now can no man see none elves mo'. 

For now the great charity and prayeres 

Of limitours,* and other holy freres, *begging friars <2> 

That search every land and ev'ry stream 

As thick as motes in the sunne-beam. 

Blessing halls, chambers, kitchenes, and bowers. 

Cities and burghes, castles high and towers, 

Thorpes* and barnes, shepens** and dairies, *villages < 3 > **stables 

This makes that there be now no faeries: 

For *there as* wont to walke was an elf. 

There walketh now the limitour himself. 

In undermeles* and in morrowings**. 

And saith his matins and his holy things. 

As he goes in his limitatioun.* *begging district 

Women may now go safely up and down. 

In every bush, and under every tree; 

There is none other incubus <5> but he; 

And he will do to them no dishonour. 


*evenings <4> **mornings 

And so befell it, that this king Arthour 
Had in his house a lusty bacheler. 
That on a day came riding from river: <6> 
And happen'd, that, alone as she was born. 
He saw a maiden walking him beforn. 
Of which maiden anon, maugre* her head. 

L spite of 

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By very force he reft her maidenhead: 
For which oppression was such clamour. 
And such pursuit unto the king Arthour, 
That damned* was this knight for to be dead 
By course of law, and should have lost his head; 
(Paraventure such was the statute tho),* 
But that the queen and other ladies mo' 
So long they prayed the king of his grace. 
Till he his life him granted in the place. 
And gave him to the queen, all at her will 
To choose whether she would him save or spill* 
The queen thanked the king with all her might; 
And, after this, thus spake she to the knight. 
When that she saw her time upon a day 
"Thou standest yet," quoth she, "in such array,* 
That of thy life yet hast thou no surety; 
I grant thee life, if thou canst tell to me 
What thing is it that women most desiren: 
Beware, and keep thy neck-bone from the iron* 
And if thou canst not tell it me anon. 
Yet will I give thee leave for to gon 
A twelvemonth and a day, to seek and lear* 
An answer suffisant* in this mattere. 
And surety will I have, ere that thou pace,* 
Thy body for to yielden in this place." 
Woe was the knight, and sorrowfully siked;* 
But what? he might not do all as him liked. 
And at the last he chose him for to wend,* 
And come again, right at the yeare's end. 
With such answer as God would him purvey:* 
And took his leave, and wended forth his way. 



*a position 

*executioner's axe 



He sought in ev'ry house and ev'ry place. 
Where as he hoped for to fmde grace. 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

To learne what thing women love the most: 

But he could not arrive in any coast, 

Where as he mighte fmd in this mattere 

Two creatures *according in fere.* *agreeing together* 

Some said that women loved best richess, 

Some said honour, and some said jolliness. 

Some rich array, and some said lust* a-bed, *pleasure 

And oft time to be widow and be wed. 

Some said, that we are in our heart most eased 

When that we are y-flatter'd and y-praised. 

He *went full nigh the sooth,* I will not lie; *came very near 

A man shall win us best with flattery; the truth* 

And with attendance, and with business 

Be we y-limed,* bothe more and less. *caught with bird-lime 

And some men said that we do love the best 

For to be free, and do *right as us lest,* *whatever we please* 

And that no man reprove us of our vice. 

But say that we are wise, and nothing nice,* *foolish 

For truly there is none among us all. 

If any wight will *claw us on the gall,* *see note* 

That will not kick, for that he saith us sooth: 

Assay,* and he shall fmd it, that so do'th. *try 

For be we never so vicious within. 

We will be held both wise and clean of sin. 

And some men said, that great delight have we 

For to be held stable and eke secre,* *discreet 

And in one purpose steadfastly to dwell. 

And not bewray* a thing that men us tell. *give away 

But that tale is not worth a rake-stele.* *rake-handle 

Pardie, we women canne nothing hele,* *hide 

Witness on Midas; will ye hear the tale? 

Ovid, amonges other thinges smale* *small 

Saith, Midas had, under his longe hairs. 

Growing upon his head two ass's ears; 

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The whiche vice he hid, as best he might. 

Full subtlely from every man's sight. 

That, save his wife, there knew of it no mo'; 

He lov'd her most, and trusted her also; 

He prayed her, that to no creature 

She woulde tellen of his disfigure. 

She swore him, nay, for all the world to win. 

She would not do that villainy or sin. 

To make her husband have so foul a name: 

She would not tell it for her owen shame. 

But natheless her thoughte that she died. 

That she so longe should a counsel hide; 

Her thought it swell'd so sore about her heart 

That needes must some word from her astart 

And, since she durst not tell it unto man 

Down to a marish fast thereby she ran. 

Till she came there, her heart was all afire: 

And, as a bittern bumbles* in the mire, *makes a humming noise 

She laid her mouth unto the water down 

"Bewray me not, thou water, with thy soun'" 

Quoth she, "to thee I tell it, and no mo'. 

Mine husband hath long ass's eares two! 

Now is mine heart all whole; now is it out; 

I might no longer keep it, out of doubt." 

Here may ye see, though we a time abide, 

Yet out it must, we can no counsel hide. 

The remnant of the tale, if ye will hear. 

Read in Ovid, and there ye may it lear.* *learn 

This knight, of whom my tale is specially. 
When that he saw he might not come thereby. 
That is to say, what women love the most. 
Within his breast full sorrowful was his ghost.* 
But home he went, for he might not sojourn. 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

The day was come, that homeward he must turn. 

And in his way it happen'd him to ride, 

In all his care,* under a forest side, *trouble, anxiety 

Where as he saw upon a dance go 

Of ladies four-and-twenty, and yet mo'. 

Toward this ilke* dance he drew full yern,** *same **eagerly < 10> 

The hope that he some wisdom there should learn; 

But certainly, ere he came fully there, 

Y-vanish'd was this dance, he knew not where; 

No creature saw he that bare life. 

Save on the green he sitting saw a wife, 

A fouler wight there may no man devise.* *imagine, tell 

Against* this knight this old wife gan to rise, *to meet 

And said, "Sir Knight, hereforth* lieth no way. *from here 

Tell me what ye are seeking, by your fay. 

Paraventure it may the better be: 

These olde folk know muche thing." quoth she. 

My leve* mother," quoth this knight, "certain, *dear 

I am but dead, but iP that I can sayn *unless 

What thing it is that women most desire: 

Could ye me wiss,* I would well *quite your hire."* *instruct < 1 1 > 

"Plight me thy troth here in mine hand," quoth she, *reward you* 

"The nexte thing that I require of thee 

Thou shalt it do, if it be in thy might. 

And I will tell it thee ere it be night." 

"Have here my trothe," quoth the knight; "I grant." 

"Thenne," quoth she, "I dare me well avaunt,* *boast, affirm 

Thy life is safe, for I will stand thereby. 

Upon my life the queen will say as I: 

Let see, which is the proudest of them all. 

That wears either a kerchief or a caul. 

That dare say nay to that I shall you teach. 

Let us go forth withoute longer speech 

Then *rowned she a pistel* in his ear, *she whispered a secret* 

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And bade him to be glad, and have no fear. 

When they were come unto the court, this knight 

Said, he had held his day, as he had hight,* *promised 

And ready was his answer, as he said. 

Full many a noble wife, and many a maid. 

And many a widow, for that they be wise, — 

The queen herself sitting as a justice, — 

Assembled be, his answer for to hear. 

And afterward this knight was bid appear. 

To every wight commanded was silence. 

And that the knight should tell in audience. 

What thing that worldly women love the best. 

This knight he stood not still, as doth a beast. 

But to this question anon answer 'd 

With manly voice, that all the court it heard, 

"My liege lady, generally," quoth he, 

"Women desire to have the sovereignty 

As well over their husband as their love 

And for to be in mast'ry him above. 

This is your most desire, though ye me kill. 

Do as you list, I am here at your will." 

In all the court there was no wife nor maid 

Nor widow, that contraried what he said. 

But said, he worthy was to have his life. 

And with that word up start that olde wife 

Which that the knight saw sitting on the green. 


"Mercy," quoth she, "my sovereign lady queen. 
Ere that your court departe, do me right. 
I taughte this answer unto this knight. 
For which he plighted me his trothe there. 
The firste thing I would of him requere. 
He would it do, if it lay in his might. 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Before this court then pray I thee, Sir Knight," 

Quoth she, "that thou me take unto thy wife. 

For well thou know'st that I have kept* thy life. *preserved 

If I say false, say nay, upon thy fay"* *faith 

This knight answer 'd, "Alas, and well-away! 

I know right well that such was my behest.* *promise 

For Godde's love choose a new request 

Take all my good, and let my body go." 

"Nay, then," quoth she, "I shrew* us bothe two, *curse 

For though that I be old, and foul, and poor, 

I n'ould* for all the metal nor the ore, *would not 

That under earth is grave,* or lies above *buried 

But if thy wife I were and eke thy love." 

"My love?" quoth he, "nay, my damnation, 

Alas! that any of my nation 

Should ever so foul disparaged be. 

But all for nought; the end is this, that he 

Constrained was, that needs he muste wed. 

And take this olde wife, and go to bed. 

Nowwoulde some men say paraventure 

That for my negligence I do no cure* 

To tell you all the joy and all th' array 

That at the feast was made that ilke* day. 

To which thing shortly answeren I shall: 

I say there was no joy nor feast at all. 

There was but heaviness and muche sorrow: 

For privily he wed her on the morrow; 

And all day after hid him as an owl. 

So woe was him, his wife look'd so foul 

Great was the woe the knight had in his thought 

When he was with his wife to bed y-brought; 

He wallow'd, and he turned to and fro. 

This olde wife lay smiling evermo'. 

*take no pains 

fastidious, niggardly 

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And said, "Dear husband, benedicite. 

Fares every knight thus with his wife as ye? 

Is this the law of king Arthoures house? 

Is every knight of his thus dangerous?* 

I am your owen love, and eke your wife 

I am she, which that saved hath your life 

And certes yet did I you ne'er unright. 

Why fare ye thus with me this firste night? 

Ye fare like a man had lost his wit. 

What is my guilt? for God's love tell me it. 

And it shall be amended, if I may." 

"Amended!" quoth this knight; "alas, nay, nay. 

It will not be amended, never mo'; 

Thou art so loathly, and so old also. 

And thereto* comest of so low a kind. 

That little wonder though I wallow and wind; 

So woulde God, mine hearte woulde brest!"* 

"Is this," quoth she, "the cause of your unrest?" 

"Yea, certainly," quoth he; "no wonder is." 

"Now, Sir," quoth she, "I could amend all this. 

If that me list, ere it were dayes three, 

*So well ye mighte bear you unto me.* 

But, for ye speaken of such gentleness 

As is descended out of old ri chess. 

That therefore shalle ye be gentlemen; 

Such arrogancy is *not worth a hen.* 

Look who that is most virtuous alway, 

*Prive and apert,* and most intendeth aye "" 

To do the gentle deedes that he can; 

And take him for the greatest gentleman. 

Christ will,* we claim of him our gentleness. 

Not of our elders* for their old richess. 

For though they gave us all their heritage. 

For which we claim to be of high parage,* 


*in addition 
*writhe, turn about 

*if you could conduct 
yourself well 
towards me* 

*worth nothing 

in private and public* 

*wills, requires 

*birth, descent 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

*kind of 

Yet may they not bequeathe, for no thing, 

To none of us, their virtuous living 

That made them gentlemen called to be. 

And bade us follow them in such degree. 

Well can the wise poet of Florence, 

That highte Dante, speak of this sentence:* 

Lo, in such manner* rhyme is Dante's tale. 

Tull seld'* upriseth by his branches smale 

Prowess of man, for God of his goodness 

Wills that we claim of him our gentleness;' <12> 

For of our elders may we nothing claim 

But temp'ral things that man may hurt and maim. 

Eke every wight knows this as well as I, 

If gentleness were planted naturally 

Unto a certain lineage down the line, 

Prive and apert, then would they never fme* 

To do of gentleness the fair office 

Then might they do no villainy nor vice. 

Take fire, and bear it to the darkest house 

Betwixt this and the mount of Caucasus, 

And let men shut the doores, and go thenne,* 

Yet will the fire as fair and lighte brenne* 

As twenty thousand men might it behold; 

*Its office natural aye will it hold,* *it will perform its 

On peril of my life, till that it die. natural duty* 

Here may ye see well how that gentery* *gentility, nobility 

Is not annexed to possession. 

Since folk do not their operation 

Alway, as doth the fire, lo, *in its kind* *from its very nature* 

For, God it wot, men may full often find 

A lorde's son do shame and villainy. 

And he that will have price* of his gent'ry, *esteem, honour 

For* he was boren of a gentle house, *because 

And had his elders noble and virtuous. 


"And whereas ye of povert' me repreve,* 
The highe God, on whom that we believe. 
In wilful povert' chose to lead his life: 
And certes, every man, maiden, or wife 
May understand that Jesus, heaven's king, 
Ne would not choose a virtuous living. 
*Glad povert'* is an honest thing, certain; 
This will Senec and other clerkes sayn 
Whoso that *holds him paid oP his povert', 
I hold him rich though he hath not a shirt. 
He that coveteth is a poore wight 

*goodness, worth 


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And will himselfe do no gentle deedes. 

Nor follow his gentle ancestry, that dead is. 

He is not gentle, be he duke or earl; 

For villain sinful deedes make a churl. 

For gentleness is but the renomee* 

Of thine ancestors, for their high bounte,* 

Which is a strange thing to thy person: 

Thy gentleness cometh from God alone. 

Then comes our very* gentleness of grace; 

It was no thing bequeath'd us with our place. 

Think how noble, as saith Valerius, 

Was thilke* Tullius Hostilius, 

That out of povert' rose to high 

Read in Senec, and read eke in Boece, 

There shall ye see express, that it no drede* is. 

That he is gentle that doth gentle deedes. 

And therefore, leve* husband, I conclude. 

Albeit that mine ancestors were rude. 

Yet may the highe God, — and so hope I, — 

Grant me His grace to live virtuously: 

Then am I gentle when that I begin 

To live virtuously, and waive* sin. 






*rep roach 

*poverty cheerfully 
*is satisfied with* 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

For he would have what is not in his might 

But he that nought hath, nor coveteth to have, 

Is rich, although ye hold him but a knave.* *slave, abject wretch 

*Very povert' is sinne,* properly. *the only true poverty is sin* 

Juvenal saith of povert' merrily: 

The poore man, when he goes by the way 

Before the thieves he may sing and play < 13 > 

Povert' is hateful good,<14> and, as I guess, 

A full great *bringer out of business;* *deliver from trouble* 

A great amender eke of sapience 

To him that taketh it in patience. 

Povert' is this, although it seem elenge* *strange <15> 

Possession that no wight will challenge 

Povert' full often, when a man is low. 

Makes him his God and eke himself to know 

Povert' a spectacle* is, as thinketh me *a pair of spectacles 

Through which he may his very* friendes see. *true 

And, therefore. Sir, since that I you not grieve. 

Of my povert' no more me repreve.* *reproach 

"Now, Sir, of elde* ye repreve me: *age 

And certes. Sir, though none authority* *text, dictum 

Were in no book, ye gentles of honour 

Say, that men should an olde wight honour. 

And call him father, for your gentleness; 

And authors shall I fmden, as I guess. 

Now there ye say that I am foul and old. 

Then dread ye not to be a cokewold.* *cuckold 

For filth, and elde, all so may I the,* *thrive 

Be greate wardens upon chastity. 

But natheless, since I know your delight, 

I shall fulfil your wordly appetite. 

Choose now," quoth she, "one of these thinges tway. 

To have me foul and old till that I dey,* *die 

And be to you a true humble wife. 

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And never you displease in all my life: 

Or elles will ye have me young and fair. 

And take your aventure of the repair* *resort 

That shall be to your house because of me, — 

Or in some other place, it may well be? 

Now choose yourselfe whether that you liketh. 


This knight adviseth* him and sore he siketh,** *considered **sighed 

But at the last he said in this mannere; 

"My lady and my love, and wife so dear, 

I put me in your wise governance. 

Choose for yourself which maybe most pleasance 

And most honour to you and me also; 

I *do no force* the whether of the two: *care not 

For as you liketh, it sufficeth me." 

"Then have I got the mastery," quoth she, 

"Since I may choose and govern as me lest."* *pleases 

"Yea, certes wife," quoth he, "I hold it best." 

"Kiss me," quoth she, "we are no longer wroth,* *at variance 

For by my troth I will be to you both; 

This is to say, yea, bothe fair and good. 

I pray to God that I may *sterve wood,* *die mad* 

But* I to you be all so good and true, *unless 

As ever was wife since the world was new; 

And but* I be to-morrow as fair to seen, *unless 

As any lady, emperess or queen. 

That is betwixt the East and eke the West 

Do with my life and death right as you lest.* *please 

Cast up the curtain, and look how it is." 

And when the knight saw verily all this. 
That she so fair was, and so young thereto. 
For joy he hent* her in his armes two: 
His hearte bathed in a bath of bliss. 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

A thousand times *on row* he gan her kiss: 
And she obeyed him in every thing 
That mighte do him pleasance or liking. 
And thus they live unto their lives' end 
In perfect joy; and Jesus Christ us send 
Husbandes meek and young, and fresh in bed, 
And grace to overlive them that we wed. 
And eke I pray Jesus to short their lives. 
That will not be governed by their wives. 
And old and angry niggards of dispence,* 
God send them soon a very pestilence! 

m succession 


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The Prologue. 

This worthy limitour, this noble Frere, 

He made always a manner louring cheer* 

Upon the Sompnour; but for honesty* 

No villain word as yet to him spake he: 

But at the last he said unto the Wife: 

"Dame," quoth he, "God give you right good life. 

Ye have here touched, all so may I the,* 

In school matter a greate difficulty. 

Ye have said muche thing right well, I say; 

But, Dame, here as we ride by the way. 

Us needeth not but for to speak of game. 

And leave authorities, in Godde's name. 

To preaching, and to school eke of clergy. 

But if it like unto this company, 

I will you of a Sompnour tell a game; 

Pardie, ye may well knowe by the name. 

That of a Sompnour may no good be said; 

I pray that none of you be *evil paid;* 

A Sompnour is a runner up and down 

With mandements* for fornicatioun. 

And is y-beat at every towne's end." 

Then spake our Host; "Ah, sir, ye should be hend* 

And courteous, as a man of your estate; 



*mandates, summonses* 
*civil, gentle 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

In company we will have no debate: 

Tell us your tale, and let the Sompnour be." 

"Nay," quoth the Sompnour, "let him say by me 

What so him list; when it comes to my lot. 

By God, I shall him quiten* every groat! 

I shall him telle what a great honour 

It is to be a flattering limitour 

And his office I shall him tell y-wis". 

Our Host answered, "Peace, no more of this." 

And afterward he said unto the frere, 

"Tell forth your tale, mine owen master dear." 

*pay him off 

The Tale. 

Whilom* there was dwelling in my country 

An archdeacon, a man of high degree. 

That boldely did execution. 

In punishing of fornication. 

Of witchecraft, and eke of bawdery. 

Of defamation, and adultery. 

Of churche-reeves,* and of testaments. 

Of contracts, and of lack of sacraments. 

And eke of many another manner* crime. 

Which needeth not rehearsen at this time. 

Of usury, and simony also; 

But, certes, lechours did he greatest woe; 

They shoulde singen, if that they were hent;* 

And smale tithers< 1 > were foul y-shent,* 

If any person would on them complain; 

There might astert them no pecunial pain.<2> 

For smalle tithes, and small offering. 

He made the people piteously to sing; 

For ere the bishop caught them with his crook. 

once on a time 


*sort of 

troubled, put to shame 

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P ittp:// 219 

They weren in the archedeacon's book; 
Then had he, through his jurisdiction. 
Power to do on them correction. 

He had a Sompnour ready to his hand, 

A slier boy was none in Engleland; 

For subtlely he had his espiaille,* *espionage 

That taught him well where it might aught avail. 

He coulde spare of lechours one or two. 

To teache him to four and twenty mo'. 

For, — though this Sompnour wood* be as a hare, — *furious, mad 

To tell his harlotry I will not spare. 

For we be out of their correction. 

They have of us no jurisdiction, 

Ne never shall have, term of all their lives. 

"Peter; so be the women of the stives,"* 
Quoth this Sompnour, "y-put out of our cure.' 


"Peace, with mischance and with misaventure," 
Our Hoste said, "and let him tell his tale. 
Now telle forth, and let the Sompnour gale,* 
Nor spare not, mine owen master dear." 

*whistle; bawl 

This false thief, the Sompnour (quoth the Frere), 

Had always bawdes ready to his hand. 

As any hawk to lure in Engleland, 

That told him all the secrets that they knew, — 

For their acquaintance was not come of new; 

They were his approvers* privily. 

He took himself at great profit thereby: 

His master knew not always what he wan.* 

Withoute mandement, a lewed* man 

He could summon, on pain of Christe's curse. 




Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

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And they were inly glad to fill his purse, 
And make him greate feastes at the nale.* 
And right as Judas hadde purses smale,* 
And was a thief, right such a thief was he. 
His master had but half *his duety* 
He was (if I shall give him his laud) 
A thief, and eke a Sompnour, and a bawd. 
And he had wenches at his retinue. 
That whether that Sir Robert or Sir Hugh, 
Or Jack, or Ralph, or whoso that it were 
That lay by them, they told it in his ear. 
Thus were the wench and he of one assent; 
And he would fetch a feigned mandement. 
And to the chapter summon them both two. 
And pill* the man, and let the wenche go. 
Then would he say, "Friend, I shall for thy sake 
Do strike thee out of oure letters blake;* 
Thee thar* no more as in this case travail; 
I am thy friend where I may thee avail." 
Certain he knew of bribers many mo' 
Than possible is to tell in yeare's two: 
For in this world is no dog for the bow,<3> 
That can a hurt deer from a whole know. 
Bet* than this Sompnour knew a sly lechour. 
Or an adult 'rer, or a paramour: 
And, for that was the fruit of all his rent. 
Therefore on it he set all his intent. 

And so befell, that once upon a day. 

This Sompnour, waiting ever on his prey. 

Rode forth to summon a widow, an old ribibe,<4> 

Feigning a cause, for he would have a bribe. 

And happen'd that he saw before him ride 

A gay yeoman under a forest side: 


What was owing him* 

*plunder, pluck 



A bow he bare, and arrows bright and keen. 

He had upon a courtepy* of green, *short doublet 

A hat upon his head with fringes blake.* *black 

"Sir," quoth this Sompnour, "hail, and well o'ertake." 

"Welcome," quoth he, "and every good fellaw; 

Whither ridest thou under this green shaw?"* shade 

Saide this yeoman; "wilt thou far to-day?" 

This Sompnour answer 'd him, and saide, "Nay. 

Here faste by," quoth he, "is mine intent 

To ride, for to raisen up a rent. 

That longeth to my lorde's duety." 

"Ah! art thou then a bailiff?" "Yea," quoth he. 

He durste not for very fdth and shame 

Say that he was a Sompnour, for the name. 

"De par dieux," <5> quoth this yeoman, "leve* brother, *dear 

Thou art a bailiff, and I am another. 

I am unknowen, as in this country. 

Of thine acquaintance I will praye thee. 

And eke of brotherhood, if that thee list.* *please 

I have gold and silver lying in my chest; 

If that thee hap to come into our shire. 

All shall be thine, right as thou wilt desire." 

"Grand mercy,"* quoth this Sompnour, "by my faith." *great thanks 

Each in the other's hand his trothe lay'th. 

For to be sworne brethren till they dey* *die<6> 

In dalliance they ride forth and play. 

This Sompnour, which that was as full of jangles,* *chattering 

As full of venom be those wariangles,* * butcher-birds <7> 

And ev'r inquiring upon every thing, 

"Brother," quoth he, "where is now your dwelling. 

Another day if that I should you seech?"* *seek, visit 

This yeoman him answered in soft speech; 

Brother," quoth he, "far in the North country,<8> 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Where as I hope some time I shall thee see 

Ere we depart I shall thee so well wiss,* *inform 

That of mine house shalt thou never miss." 

Now, brother," quoth this Sompnour, "I you pray. 

Teach me, while that we ride by the way, 

(Since that ye be a bailiff as am I,) 

Some subtilty, and tell me faithfully 

For mine office how that I most may win. 

And *spare not* for conscience or for sin, *conceal nothing* 

But, as my brother, tell me how do ye." 

Now by my trothe, brother mine," said he. 

As I shall tell to thee a faithful tale: 

My wages be full strait and eke full smale; 

My lord is hard to me and dangerous,* *niggardly 

And mine office is full laborious; 

And therefore by extortion I live. 

Forsooth I take all that men will me give. 

Algate* by sleighte, or by violence, *whether 

From year to year I win all my dispence; 

I can no better tell thee faithfully." 

Now certes," quoth this Sompnour, "so fare* I; *do 

I spare not to take, God it wot, 

*But iP it be too heavy or too hot. *unless* 

What I may get in counsel privily. 

No manner conscience of that have I. 

N'ere* mine extortion, I might not live, *were it not for 

For of such japes* will I not be shrive.** *tricks **confessed 

Stomach nor conscience know I none; 

I shrew* these shrifte-fathers** every one. *curse **confessors 

Well be we met, by God and by St Jame. 

But, leve brother, tell me then thy name," 

Quoth this Sompnour. Right in this meane while 

This yeoman gan a little for to smile. 

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"Brother," quoth he, "wilt thou that I thee tell? 

I am a fiend, my dwelling is in hell. 

And here I ride about my purchasing. 

To know where men will give me any thing. 

*My purchase is th' effect of all my rent* *what I can gain is my 

Look how thou ridest for the same intent sole revenue* 

To winne good, thou reckest never how. 

Right so fare I, for ride will I now 

Into the worlde's ende for a prey." 

"Ah," quoth this Sompnour, "benedicite! what say y'? 

I weened ye were a yeoman truly. *thought 

Ye have a manne's shape as well as I 

Have ye then a figure determinate 

In helle, where ye be in your estate?"* *at home 

"Nay, certainly," quoth he, there have we none. 

But when us liketh we can take us one. 

Or elles make you seem* that we be shape *believe 

Sometime like a man, or like an ape; 

Or like an angel can I ride or go; 

It is no wondrous thing though it be so, 

A lousy juggler can deceive thee. 

And pardie, yet can I more craft* than he." *skill, cunning 

"Why," quoth the Sompnour, "ride ye then or gon 

In sundry shapes and not always in one?" 

"For we," quoth he, "will us in such form make. 

As most is able our prey for to take." 

"What maketh you to have all this labour?" 

"Full many a cause, leve Sir Sompnour," 

Saide this fiend. "But all thing hath a time; 

The day is short and it is passed prime. 

And yet have I won nothing in this day; 

I will intend* to winning, if I may, *^Ppty niyself 

And not intend our thinges to declare: 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

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For, brother mine, thy wit is all too bare 

To understand, although I told them thee. 

*But for* thou askest why laboure we: *because* 

For sometimes we be Godde's instruments 

And meanes to do his commandements. 

When that him list, upon his creatures. 

In divers acts and in divers figures: 

Withoute him we have no might certain. 

If that him list to stande thereagain.* *against it 

And sometimes, at our prayer have we leave 

Only the body, not the soul, to grieve: 

Witness on Job, whom that we did full woe. 

And sometimes have we might on both the two, — 

This is to say, on soul and body eke. 

And sometimes be we suffer'd for to seek 

Upon a man and do his soul unrest 

And not his body, and all is for the best. 

When he withstandeth our temptation. 

It is a cause of his salvation. 

Albeit that it was not our intent 

He should be safe, but that we would him hent.* *catch 

And sometimes be we servants unto man. 

As to the archbishop Saint Dunstan, 

And to th'apostle servant eke was I." 

"Yet tell me," quoth this Sompnour, "faithfully. 

Make ye you newe bodies thus alway 

Of th' elements?" The fiend answered, "Nay: 

Sometimes we feign, and sometimes we arise 

With deade bodies, in full sundry wise. 

And speak as reas'nably, and fair, and well. 

As to the Pythoness<9> did Samuel: 

And yet will some men say it was not he. 

I *do no force oP your divinity. *set no value upon* 

But one thing warn I thee, I will not jape,* jest 

*assuredly know* 


*learn to understand 
what I have said* 

Thou wilt *algates weet* how we be shape: 

Thou shalt hereafter ward, my brother dear. 

Come, where thee needeth not of me to lear.'' 

For thou shalt by thine own experience 

*Conne in a chair to rede of this sentence,* 

Better than Virgil, while he was alive. 

Or Dante also. <10> Now let us ride blive,* 

For I will holde company with thee. 

Till it be so that thou forsake me." 

"Nay," quoth this Sompnour, "that shall ne'er betide. 

I am a yeoman, that is known full wide; 

My trothe will I hold, as in this case; 

For though thou wert the devil Satanas, 

My trothe will I hold to thee, my brother. 

As I have sworn, and each of us to other. 

For to be true brethren in this case. 

And both we go *abouten our purchase.* *seeking what we 

Take thou thy part, what that men will thee give, may pick up* 

And I shall mine, thus may we bothe live. 

And if that any of us have more than other. 

Let him be true, and part it with his brother." 

"I grante," quoth the devil, "by my fay." 

And with that word they rode forth their way. 

And right at th'ent'ring of the towne's end. 

To which this Sompnour shope* him for to wend,* 

They saw a cart, that charged was with hay. 

Which that a carter drove forth on his way. 

Deep was the way, for which the carte stood: 

The carter smote, and cried as he were wood,* 

"Heit Scot! heit Brok! what, spare ye for the stones? 

The fiend (quoth he) you fetch body and bones. 

As farforthly* as ever ye were foal'd, *sure 

So muche woe as I have with you tholed.* *endured < 1 1 > 

The devil have all, horses, and cart, and hay." 

*shaped **go 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

The Sompnour said, "Here shall we have a prey," 

And near the fiend he drew, *as nought ne were,* *as if nothing 

Full privily, and rowned* in his ear: were the matter* 

"Hearken, my brother, hearken, by thy faith, *whispered 

Hearest thou not, how that the carter saith? 

Hent* it anon, for he hath giv'n it thee, *seize 

Both hay and cart, and eke his capels* three." *horses < 12> 

"Nay," quoth the devil, "God wot, never a deal,* whit 

It is not his intent, trust thou me well; 

Ask him thyself, if thou not trowest* me, *believest 

Or elles stint* a while and thou shalt see." *stop 

The carter thwack'd his horses on the croup. 

And they began to drawen and to stoop. 

"Heit now," quoth he; "there, Jesus Christ you bless. 

And all his handiwork, both more and less! 

That was well twight,* mine owen liart,** boy, *pulled **grey< 13 > 

I pray God save thy body, and Saint Loy! 

Now is my cart out of the slough, pardie." 

"Lo, brother," quoth the fiend, "what told I thee? 

Here may ye see, mine owen deare brother. 

The churl spake one thing, but he thought another. 

Let us go forth abouten our voyage; 

Here win I nothing upon this carriage." 

When that they came somewhat out of the town. 

This Sompnour to his brother gan to rown; 

"Brother," quoth he, "here wons* an old rebeck,<14> 

That had almost as lief to lose her neck. 

As for to give a penny of her good. 

I will have twelvepence, though that she be wood,* 

Or I will summon her to our office; 

And yet, God wot, of her know I no vice. 

But for thou canst not, as in this country, 

Winne thy cost, take here example of me." 



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This Sompnour clapped at the widow's gate: 

"Come out," he said, "thou olde very trate;* *trot <15> 

I trow thou hast some friar or priest with thee." 

"Who clappeth?" said this wife; "benedicite, 

God save you. Sir, what is your sweete will?" 

"I have," quoth he, "of summons here a bill. 

Up* pain of cursing, looke that thou be *upon 

To-morrow before our archdeacon's knee. 

To answer to the court of certain things." 

"Now Lord," quoth she, "Christ Jesus, king of kings. 

So wisly* helpe me, *as I not may* *surely *as I cannot* 

I have been sick, and that full many a day. 

I may not go so far," quoth she, "nor ride. 

But I be dead, so pricketh it my side. 

May I not ask a libel. Sir Sompnour, 

And answer there by my procuratour 

To such thing as men would appose* me?" *accuse 

"Yes," quoth this Sompnour, "pay anon, let see, 

Twelvepence to me, and I will thee acquit. 

I shall no profit have thereby but lit:* *little 

My master hath the profit and not L 

Come off, and let me ride hastily; 

Give me twelvepence, I may no longer tarry." 


"Twelvepence!" quoth she; "now lady Sainte Mary 

So wisly* help me out of care and sin, *surely 

This wide world though that I should it win. 

No have I not twelvepence within my hold. 

Ye know full well that I am poor and old; 

*Kithe your almes* upon me poor wretch." *show your charity* 

"Nay then," quoth he, "the foule fiend me fetch. 

If I excuse thee, though thou should'st be spilt."* *ruined 

"Alas!" quoth she, "God wot, I have no guilt." 

"Pay me," quoth he, "or, by the sweet Saint Anne, 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

As I will bear away thy newe pan 

For debte, which thou owest me of old, — 

When that thou madest thine husband cuckold, — 

I paid at home for thy correction." 

"Thou liest," quoth she, "by my salvation; 

Never was I ere now, widow or wife, 

Summon'd unto your court in all my life; 

Nor never I was but of my body true. 

Unto the devil rough and black of hue 

Give I thy body and my pan also." 

And when the devil heard her curse so 

Upon her knees, he said in this mannere; 

"Now, Mabily, mine owen mother dear. 

Is this your will in earnest that ye say?" 

"The devil," quoth she, "so fetch him ere he dey* 

And pan and all, but* he will him repent." 

"Nay, olde stoat,* that is not mine intent," 

Quoth this Sompnour, "for to repente me 

For any thing that I have had of thee; 

I would I had thy smock and every cloth." 

"Now, brother," quoth the devil, "be not wroth; 

Thy body and this pan be mine by right. 

Thou shalt with me to helle yet tonight. 

Where thou shalt knowen of our privity* 

More than a master of divinity." 



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After the text of Christ, and Paul, and John, 

And of our other doctors many a one. 

Such paines, that your heartes might agrise,* 

Albeit so, that no tongue may devise,* — 

Though that I might a thousand winters tell, — 

The pains of thilke* cursed house of hell 

But for to keep us from that cursed place 

Wake we, and pray we Jesus, of his grace. 

So keep us from the tempter, Satanas. 

Hearken this word, beware as in this case. 

The lion sits *in his await* alway 

To slay the innocent, if that he may. 

Disposen aye your heartes to withstond 

The fiend that would you make thrall and bond; 

He may not tempte you over your might. 

For Christ will be your champion and your knight; 

And pray, that this our Sompnour him repent 

Of his misdeeds ere that the fiend him hent.* 

*be horrified 


*on the watch* <16> 

And with that word the foule fiend him hent.* 
Body and soul, he with the devil went. 
Where as the Sompnours have their heritage; 
And God, that maked after his image 
Mankinde, save and guide us all and some. 
And let this Sompnour a good man become. 
Lordings, I could have told you (quoth this Frere), 
Had I had leisure for this Sompnour here. 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

ne (pf(my[}noim6 ty^aie. 

The Prologue. 

The Sompnour in his stirrups high he stood, 

Upon this Friar his hearte was so wood,* 

That like an aspen leaf he quoke* for ire: 

"Lordings," quoth he, "but one thing I desire; 

I you beseech, that of your courtesy. 

Since ye have heard this false Friar lie. 

As suffer me I may my tale tell 

This Friar boasteth that he knoweth hell. 

And, God it wot, that is but little wonder. 

Friars and fiends be but little asunder. 

For, pardie, ye have often time heard tell. 

How that a friar ravish'd was to hell 

In spirit ones by a visioun. 

And, as an angel led him up and down. 

To shew him all the paines that there were. 

In all the place saw he not a frere; 

Of other folk he saw enough in woe. 

Unto the angel spake the friar tho;* 

'Now, Sir,' quoth he, 'have friars such a grace. 

That none of them shall come into this place?' 

'Yes' quoth the angel; 'many a millioun:' 

And unto Satanas he led him down. 

'And now hath Satanas,' said he, 'a tail 

*quaked, trembled 


Immediately* <2> 

*in a crowd* 

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Broader than of a carrack<l> is the sail. 
Hold up thy tail, thou Satanas,' quoth he, 
'Shew forth thine erse, and let the friar see 
Where is the nest of friars in this place.' 
And *less than half a furlong way of space* 
Right so as bees swarmen out of a hive. 
Out of the devil's erse there gan to drive 
A twenty thousand friars *on a rout.* 
And throughout hell they swarmed all about. 
And came again, as fast as they may gon. 
And in his erse they creeped every one: 
He clapt his tail again, and lay full still. 
This friar, when he looked had his fill 
Upon the torments of that sorry place. 
His spirit God restored of his grace 
Into his body again, and he awoke; 
But natheless for feare yet he quoke. 
So was the devil's erse aye in his mind; 
That is his heritage, *of very kind* 
God save you alle, save this cursed Frere; 
My prologue will I end in this mannere. 


^by his very nature* 

The Tale. 

Lordings, there is in Yorkshire, as I guess, 

A marshy country called Holderness, 

In which there went a limitour about 

To preach, and eke to beg, it is no doubt. 

And so befell that on a day this frere 

Had preached at a church in his mannere. 

And specially, above every thing. 

Excited he the people in his preaching 

To trentals, <1> and to give, for Godde's sake. 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Wherewith men mighte holy houses make, 

There as divine service is honour 'd, 

Not there as it is wasted and devour 'd, 

Nor where it needeth not for to be given, 

As to possessioners, <2> that may liven. 

Thanked be God, in wealth and abundance. 

"Trentals," said he, "deliver from penance 

Their friendes' soules, as well old as young. 

Yea, when that they be hastily y-sung, — 

Not for to hold a priest jolly and gay. 

He singeth not but one mass in a day 

"Deliver out," quoth he, "anon the souls. 

Full hard it is, with flesh-hook or with owls* 

To be y-clawed, or to burn or bake: <3> 

Now speed you hastily, for Christe's sake." 

And when this friar had said all his intent. 

With qui cum patre<4> forth his way he went. 

When folk in church had giv'n him what them lest; 

He went his way, no longer would he rest. 

With scrip and tipped staff, *y-tucked high: 

In every house he gan to pore* and pry. 

And begged meal and cheese, or elles corn. 

His fellow had a staff tipped with horn, 

A pair of tables* all of ivory. 

And a pointel* y-polish'd fetisly,** 

And wrote alway the names, as he stood; 

Of all the folk that gave them any good, 

Askaunce* that he woulde for them pray. 

"Give us a bushel wheat, or malt, or rey* 

A Godde's kichel,* or a trip** of cheese. 

Or elles what you list, we may not chese;* 

A Godde's halfpenny, <6> or a mass penny; 

Or give us of your brawn, if ye have any; 

A dagon* of your blanket, leve dame. 



with his robe tucked 
up high* *peer 

Writing tablets 
*pencil **daintily 

*see note <5> 
little cake<6> **scrap 


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P ittp:// 233 

Our sister dear, — lo, here I write your name, — 

Bacon or beef, or such thing as ye fmd." 

A sturdy harlot* went them aye behind, *manservant <7> 

That was their hoste's man, and bare a sack. 

And what men gave them, laid it on his back 

And when that he was out at door, anon 

He *planed away* the names every one, *rubbed out* 

That he before had written in his tables: 

He served them with nifles* and with fables. — *silly tales 

"Nay, there thou liest, thou Sompnour," quoth the Frere. 
"Peace," quoth our Host, "for Christe's mother dear; 
Tell forth thy tale, and spare it not at all." 
"So thrive I," quoth this Sompnour, "so I shall." — 

So long he went from house to house, till he 

Came to a house, where he was wont to be 

Refreshed more than in a hundred places 

Sick lay the husband man, whose that the place is. 

Bed-rid upon a couche low he lay: 

*"Deus hie,"* quoth he; "O Thomas friend, good day," *God be here* 

Said this friar, all courteously and soft. 

"Thomas," quoth he, "God *yield it you,* full oft *reward you for* 

Have I upon this bench fared full well. 

Here have I eaten many a merry meal." 

And from the bench he drove away the cat. 

And laid adown his potent* and his hat, *staff <8> 

And eke his scrip, and sat himself adown: 

His fellow was y- walked into town 

Forth with his knave,* into that hostelry *servant 

Where as he shope* him that night to lie. *shaped, purposed 

"O deare master," quoth this sicke man, 
"How have ye fared since that March began? 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

I saw you not this fortenight and more." 

"God wot," quoth he, "labour 'd have I full sore; 

And specially for thy salvation 

Have I said many a precious orison. 

And for mine other friendes, God them bless. 

I have this day been at your church at mess,* 

And said sermon after my simple wit. 

Not all after the text of Holy Writ; 

For it is hard to you, as I suppose. 

And therefore will I teach you aye the glose.* 

Glosing is a full glorious thing certain. 

For letter slayeth, as we clerkes* sayn. 

There have I taught them to be charitable. 

And spend their good where it is reasonable. 

And there I saw our dame; where is she?" 

"Yonder I trow that in the yard she be," 

Saide this man; "and she will come anon." 

"Hey master, welcome be ye by Saint John," 

Saide this wife; "how fare ye heartily?" 

*gloss, comment 

This friar riseth up full courteously. 

And her embraceth *in his armes narrow,* *closely 

And kiss'th her sweet, and chirketh as a sparrow 

With his lippes: "Dame," quoth he, "right well. 

As he that is your servant every deal.* *whit 

Thanked be God, that gave you soul and life. 

Yet saw I not this day so fair a wife 

In all the churche, God so save me," 

"Yea, God amend defaultes. Sir," quoth she; 

"Algates* welcome be ye, by my fay." *always 

"Grand mercy. Dame; that have I found alway. 

But of your greate goodness, by your leave, 

I woulde pray you that ye not you grieve, 

I will with Thomas speak *a little throw:* *a little while* 

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These curates be so negligent and slow 

To grope tenderly a conscience. 

In shrift* and preaching is my diligence *confession 

And study in Peter s wordes and in Paul's; 

I walk and fishe Christian menne's souls. 

To yield our Lord Jesus his proper rent; 

To spread his word is alle mine intent." 

"Now by your faith, O deare Sir," quoth she, 

"Chide him right well, for sainte charity. 

He is aye angry as is a pismire,* *ant 

Though that he have all that he can desire. 

Though I him wrie* at night, and make him warm, *cover 

And ov'r him lay my leg and eke mine arm. 

He groaneth as our boar that lies in sty: 

Other disport of him right none have I, 

I may not please him in no manner case." 

"O Thomas, *je vous dis,* Thomas, Thomas, *I tell you* 

This *maketh the fiend,* this must be amended. *is the devil's work* 

Ire is a thing that high God hath defended,* *forbidden 

And thereof will I speak a word or two." 

"Now, master," quoth the wife, "ere that I go. 

What will ye dine? I will go thereabout." 

"Now, Dame," quoth he, "je vous dis sans doute, <9> 

Had I not of a capon but the liver. 

And of your white bread not but a shiver,* *thin slice 

And after that a roasted pigge's head, 

(But I would that for me no beast were dead,) 

Then had I with you homely suffisance. 

I am a man of little sustenance. 

My spirit hath its fost'ring in the Bible. 

My body is aye so ready and penible* *painstaking 

To wake,* that my stomach is destroy 'd. *watch 

I pray you. Dame, that ye be not annoy 'd. 

Though I so friendly you my counsel shew; 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

By God, I would have told it but to few." 
"Now, Sir," quoth she, "but one word ere I go; 
My child is dead within these weeke's two. 
Soon after that ye went out of this town." 

"His death saw I by revelatioun," 

Said this friar, "at home in our dortour.* *dormitory < 10> 

I dare well say, that less than half an hour 

Mter his death, I saw him borne to bliss 

In mine vision, so God me wiss.* *direct 

So did our sexton, and our fermerere,* *infirmary-keeper 

That have been true friars fifty year, — 

They may now, God be thanked of his love. 

Make their jubilee, and walk above. < 12 > 

And up I rose, and all our convent eke. 

With many a teare trilling on my cheek, 

Withoute noise or clattering of bells, 

Te Deum was our song, and nothing else. 

Save that to Christ I bade an orison. 

Thanking him of my revelation. 

For, Sir and Dame, truste me right well. 

Our orisons be more effectuel. 

And more we see of Christe's secret things. 

Than *borel folk,* although that they be kings. *laymen*< 13 > 

We live in povert', and in abstinence. 

And borel folk in riches and dispence 

Of meat and drink, and in their foul delight. 

We have this worlde's lust* all in despight** * pleasure **contempt 

Lazar and Dives lived diversely. 

And diverse guerdon* hadde they thereby. *reward 

Whoso will pray, he must fast and be clean. 

And fat his soul, and keep his body lean 

We fare as saith th' apostle; cloth* and food *clothing 

Suffice us, although they be not full good. 

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The cleanness and the fasting of us freres 

Maketh that Christ accepteth our prayeres. 

Lo, Moses forty days and forty night 

Fasted, ere that the high God full of might 

Spake with him in the mountain of Sinai: 

With empty womb* of fasting many a day 

Received he the lawe, that was writ 

With Godde's finger; and Eli,<14> well ye wit,^ 

In Mount Horeb, ere he had any speech 

With highe God, that is our lives leech,* 

He fasted long, and was in contemplance. 

Aaron, that had the temple in governance. 

And eke the other priestes every one. 

Into the temple when they shoulde gon 

To praye for the people, and do service. 

They woulde drinken in no manner wise 

No drinke, which that might them drunken make. 

But there in abstinence pray and wake. 

Lest that they died: take heed what I say — 

But* they be sober that for the people pray — 

Ware that, I say — no more: for it sufficeth. 

Our Lord Jesus, as Holy Writ deviseth,* 

Gave us example of fasting and prayeres: 

Therefore we mendicants, we sely* freres. 

Be wedded to povert' and continence. 

To charity, humbless, and abstinence. 

To persecution for righteousness. 

To weeping, misericorde,* and to cleanness. 

And therefore may ye see that our prayeres 

(I speak of us, we mendicants, we freres). 

Be to the highe God more acceptable 

Than youres, with your feastes at your table. 

From Paradise first, if I shall not lie. 

Was man out chased for his gluttony. 



physician, healer 



*simple, lowly 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And chaste was man in Paradise certain. 

But hark now, Thomas, what I shall thee sayn; 

I have no text of it, as I suppose. 

But I shall fmd it in *a manner glose;* *a kind of comment* 

That specially our sweet Lord Jesus 

Spake this of friars, when he saide thus, 

'Blessed be they that poor in spirit be' 

And so forth all the gospel may ye see. 

Whether it be liker our profession. 

Or theirs that swimmen in possession; 

Fy on their pomp, and on their gluttony, 

And on their lewedness! I them defy. 

Me thinketh they be likeJovinian,<15> 

Fat as a whale, and walking as a swan; 

All vinolent* as bottle in the spence;** *full of wine **store-room 

Their prayer is of full great reverence; 

When they for soules say the Psalm of David, 

Lo, 'Buf they say. Cor meum eructavit.<16> 

Who follow Christe's gospel and his lore* *doctrine 

But we, that humble be, and chaste, and pore,* *poor 

Workers of Godde's word, not auditours?* *hearers 

Therefore right as a hawk *upon a sours* *rising* 

Up springs into the air, right so prayeres 

Of charitable and chaste busy freres 

*Make their sours* to Godde's eares two. *rise* 

Thomas, Thomas, so may I ride or go. 

And by that lord that called is Saint Ive, 

*N'ere thou our brother, shouldest thou not thrive;* *see note < 17>* 

In our chapiter pray we day and night 

To Christ, that he thee sende health and might. 

Thy body for to *wielde hastily* *soon be able to move freely* 

"God wot," quoth he, "nothing thereof feel I; 
So help me Christ, as I in fewe years 

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friars of various sorts* 

Have spended upon *divers manner freres* 

Full many a pound, yet fare I ne'er the bet; 

Certain my good have I almost beset:* 

Farewell my gold, for it is all ago."* 

The friar answer'd, "O Thomas, dost thou so? 

What needest thou diverse friars to seech?* *seek 

What needeth him that hath a perfect leech,* *healer 

To seeken other leeches in the town? 

Your inconstance is your confusioun. 

Hold ye then me, or elles our convent. 

To praye for you insufficient? 

Thomas, that jape* it is not worth a mite; *jest 

Your malady is *for we have too lite.* *because we have 

Ah, give that convent half a quarter oats; too little* 

And give that convent four and twenty groats; 

And give that friar a penny, and let him go! 

Nay, nay, Thomas, it may no thing be so. 

What is a farthing worth parted on twelve? 

Lo, each thing that is oned* in himselve *made one, united 

Is more strong than when it is y-scatter'd. 

Thomas, of me thou shalt not be y-flatter'd. 

Thou wouldest have our labour all for nought. 

The highe God, that all this world hath wrought, 

Saith, that the workman worthy is his hire 

Thomas, nought of your treasure I desire 

As for myself, but that all our convent 

To pray for you is aye so diligent: 

And for to builde Christe's owen church. 

Thomas, if ye will learne for to wirch,* *work 

Of building up of churches may ye fmd 

If it be good, in Thomas' life of Ind. < 1 8 > 

Ye lie here full of anger and of ire. 

With which the devil sets your heart on fire. 

And chide here this holy innocent 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Your wife, that is so meek and patient. 

And therefore trow* me, Thomas, if thee lest,** *believe **please 

Ne strive not with thy wife, as for the best. 

And bear this word away now, by thy faith. 

Touching such thing, lo, what the wise man saith: 

'Within thy house be thou no lion; 

To thy subjects do none oppression; 

Nor make thou thine acquaintance for to flee.' 

And yet, Thomas, eftsoones* charge I thee, *again 

Beware from ire that in thy bosom sleeps. 

Ware from the serpent, that so slily creeps 

Under the grass, and stingeth subtilly. 

Beware, my son, and hearken patiently. 

That twenty thousand men have lost their lives 

For striving with their lemans* and their wives. *mistresses 

Now since ye have so holy and meek a wife. 

What needeth you, Thomas, to make strife? 

There is, y-wis,* no serpent so cruel, *certainly 

When men tread on his tail nor half so fell,* *fierce 

As woman is, when she hath caught an ire; 

Very* vengeance is then all her desire. *pure, only 

Ire is a sin, one of the greate seven. 

Abominable to the God of heaven. 

And to himself it is destruction. 

This every lewed* vicar and parson *ignorant 

Can say, how ire engenders homicide; 

Ire is in sooth th' executor* of pride. *executioner 

I could of ire you say so muche sorrow. 

My tale shoulde last until to-morrow. 

And therefore pray I God both day and ight. 

An irous* man God send him little might. *passionate 

It is great harm, and certes great pity 

To set an irous man in high degree. 

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"Whilom* there was an irous potestate,** *once **judge< 19> 

As saith Senec, that during his estate* *term of office 

Upon a day out rode knightes two; 

And, as fortune would that it were so. 

The one of them came home, the other not. 

Anon the knight before the judge is brought. 

That saide thus; Thou hast thy fellow slain. 

For which I doom thee to the death certain.' 

And to another knight commanded he; 

'Go, lead him to the death, I charge thee.' 

And happened, as they went by the way 

Toward the place where as he should dey* *die 

The knight came, which men weened* had been dead *thought 

Then thoughte they it was the beste rede* *counsel 

To lead them both unto the judge again. 

They saide, 'Lord, the knight hath not y-slain 

His fellow; here he standeth whole alive.' 

'Ye shall be dead,' quoth he, 'so may I thrive. 

That is to say, both one, and two, and three.' 

And to the firste knight right thus spake he: 

'I damned thee, thou must algate* be dead: *at all events 

And thou also must needes lose thine head. 

For thou the cause art why thy fellow dieth.' 

And to the thirde knight right thus he sayeth, 

'Thou hast not done that I commanded thee.' 

And thus he did do slay them alle three. 

Irous Cambyses was eke dronkelew,* 

And aye delighted him to be a shrew* 

And so befell, a lord of his meinie,* 

That loved virtuous morality. 

Said on a day betwixt them two right thus: 

'A lord is lost, if he be vicious. 

[An irous man is like a frantic beast. 

*a drunkard 
*vicious, ill-tempered 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

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In which there is of wisdom *none arrest*;] *no control* 

And drunkenness is eke a foul record 

Of any man, and namely* of a lord. *especially 

There is full many an eye and many an ear 

*Awaiting on* a lord, he knows not where. *watching 

For Godde's love, drink more attemperly:* *temperately 

Wine maketh man to lose wretchedly 

His mind, and eke his limbes every one.' 

The reverse shalt thou see,' quoth he, 'anon. 

And prove it by thine own experience. 

That wine doth to folk no such offence. 

There is no wine bereaveth me my might 

Of hand, nor foot, nor of mine eyen sight.' 

And for despite he dranke muche more 

A hundred part* than he had done before. 

And right anon this cursed irous wretch 

This knighte's sone let* before him fetch. 

Commanding him he should before him stand: 

And suddenly he took his bow in hand. 

And up the string he pulled to his ear. 

And with an arrow slew the child right there. 

'Now whether have I a sicker* hand or non?'** 

Quoth he; 'Is all my might and mind agone? 

Hath wine bereaved me mine eyen sight?' 

Why should I tell the answer of the knight? 

His son was slain, there is no more to say. 

Beware therefore with lordes how ye play,* *use freedom 

Sing placebo;<20> and I shall if I can, 

*But if it be unto a poore man: *unless 

To a poor man men should his vices tell. 

But not t' a lord, though he should go to hell. 

Lo, irous Cyrus, thilke* Persian, *that 

How he destroy 'd the river of Gisen,<21 > 

For that a horse of his was drowned therein. 

When that he wente Babylon to win: 

He made that the river was so small. 

That women mighte wade it *over all.* *everywhere 

Lo, what said he, that so well teache can, 

'Be thou no fellow to an irous man. 

Nor with no wood* man walke by the way, *furious 

Lest thee repent;' I will no farther say. 

"Now, Thomas, leve* brother, leave thine ire, *dear 

Thou shalt me fmd as just as is as squire; 

Hold not the devil's knife aye at thine heaat; 

Thine anger doth thee all too sore smart;* *pain 

But shew to me all thy confession." 

"Nay," quoth the sicke man, "by Saint Simon 

I have been shriven* this day of my curate; *confessed 

I have him told all wholly mine estate. 

Needeth no more to speak of it, saith he. 

But if me list of mine humility." 

"Give me then of thy good to make our cloister," 

Quoth he, "for many a mussel and many an oyster. 

When other men have been full well at ease. 

Hath been our food, our cloister for to rese:* 

And yet, God wot, unneth* the foundement** 

Performed is, nor of our pavement 

Is not a tile yet within our wones:* *habitation 

By God, we owe forty pound for stones. 

Now help, Thomas, for *him that harrow'd hell,* *Christ <22> 

For elles must we oure bookes sell. 

And if ye lack our predication. 

Then goes this world all to destruction. 

For whoso from this world would us bereave. 

So God me save, Thomas, by your leave. 

He would bereave out of this world the sun 

For who can teach and worken as we conne?* *know how to do 

*raise, build 
^scarcely **foundation 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And that is not of little time (quoth he), 

But since Elijah was, and Elisee,* *Elisha 

Have friars been, that find I of record. 

In charity, y-thanked be our Lord. 

Now, Thomas, help for sainte charity" 

And down anon he set him on his knee. 

The sick man waxed well-nigh wood* for ire, *mad 

He woulde that the friar had been a-fire 

With his false dissimulation. 

"Such thing as is in my possession," 

Quoth he, "that may I give you and none other: 

Ye say me thus, how that I am your brother." 

"Yea, certes," quoth this friar, "yea, truste well; 

I took our Dame the letter of our sear<23> 

"Now well," quoth he, "and somewhat shall I give 

Unto your holy convent while I live; 

And in thine hand thou shalt it have anon. 

On this condition, and other none. 

That thou depart* it so, my deare brother, *divide 

That every friar have as much as other: 

This shalt thou swear on thy profession, 

Withoute fraud or cavillation."* *quibbling 

"I swear it," quoth the friar, "upon my faith." 

And therewithal his hand in his he lay'th; 

"Lo here my faith, in me shall be no lack." 

"Then put thine hand adown right by my back," 

Saide this man, "and grope well behind. 

Beneath my buttock, there thou shalt fmd 

A thing, that I have hid in privity." 

"Ah," thought this friar, "that shall go with me." 

And down his hand he launched to the clift,* *cleft 

In hope for to fmde there a gift. 

And when this sicke man felte this frere 

About his taile groping there and here. 

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Amid his hand he let the friar a fart; 

There is no capel* drawing in a cart, *horse 

That might have let a fart of such a soun'. 

The friar up start, as doth a wood* lioun: *fierce 

"Ah, false churl," quoth he, "for Godde's bones. 

This hast thou in despite done for the nones:* *on purpose 

Thou shalt abie* this fart, if that I may." *suffer for 

His meinie,* which that heard of this affray, *servants 

Came leaping in, and chased out the frere. 

And forth he went with a full angry cheer* *countenance 

And fetch'd his fellow, there as lay his store: 

He looked as it were a wilde boar. 

And grounde with his teeth, so was he wroth. 

A sturdy pace down to the court he go'th. 

Where as there wonn'd* a man of great honour, *dwelt 

To whom that he was always confessour: 

This worthy man was lord of that village. 

This friar came, as he were in a rage. 

Where as this lord sat eating at his board: 

Unnethes* might the friar speak one word, *with difficulty 

Till at the last he saide, "God you see."* *save 

This lord gan look, and said, "Ben'dicite! 

What? Friar John, what manner world is this? 

I see well that there something is amiss; 

Ye look as though the wood were full of thieves. 

Sit down anon, and tell me what your grieve* is, *grievance, grief 

And it shall be amended, if I may." 

"I have," quoth he, "had a despite to-day, 

God *yielde you,* adown in your village, *reward you 

That in this world is none so poor a page. 

That would not have abominatioun 

Of that I have received in your town: 

And yet ne grieveth me nothing so sore. 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

As that the olde churl, with lockes hoar, 

Blasphemed hath our holy convent eke." 

"Now, master," quoth this lord, "I you beseek" — 

"No master. Sir," quoth he, "but servitour. 

Though I have had in schoole that honour. <24> 

God liketh not, that men us Rabbi call 

Neither in market, nor in your large hall." 

*"No force,"* quoth he; "but tell me all your grief." *no matter* 

Sir," quoth this friar, "an odious mischief 

This day betid* is to mine order and me, *befallen 

And so par consequence to each degree 

Of holy churche, God amend it soon." 

"Sir," quoth the lord, "ye know what is to doon:* *do 

*Distemp'r you not,* ye be my confessour. *be not impatient* 

Ye be the salt of th' earth, and the savour; 

For Godde's love your patience now hold; 

Tell me your grief" And he anon him told 

As ye have heard before, ye know well what. 

The lady of the house aye stiller sat. 

Till she had hearde what the friar said, 

"Hey, Godde's mother;" quoth she, "blissful maid. 

Is there ought elles? tell me faithfully." 

"Madame," quoth he, "how thinketh you thereby?" 

"How thinketh me?" quoth she; "so God me speed, 

I say, a churl hath done a churlish deed. 

What should I say? God let him never the;* *thrive 

His sicke head is full of vanity; 

I hold him in *a manner phrenesy."* *a sort of frenzy* 

"Madame," quoth he, "by God, I shall not lie. 

But I in other wise may be awreke,* *revenged 

I shall defame him *ov'r all there* I speak; *wherever 

This false blasphemour, that charged me 

To parte that will not departed be. 

To every man alike, with mischance." 

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The lord sat still, as he were in a trance. 
And in his heart he rolled up and down, 
"How had this churl imaginatioun 
To shewe such a problem to the frere. 
Never ere now heard I of such mattere; 
I trow* the Devil put it in his mind. 
In all arsmetrik* shall there no man fmd. 
Before this day, of such a question. 
Who shoulde make a demonstration. 
That every man should have alike his part 
As of the sound and savour of a fart? 

nice* proude churl, I shrew** his face. 
Lo, Sires," quoth the lord, "with harde grace. 
Who ever heard of such a thing ere now? 
To every man alike? tell me how. 

It is impossible, it may not be. 

Hey nice* churl, God let him never the.** 

The rumbling of a fart, and every soun'. 

Is but of air reverb eratioun. 

And ever wasteth lite* and lite* away; 

There is no man can deemen,* by my fay. 

If that it were departed* equally. 

What? lo, my churl, lo yet how shrewedly* 

Unto my confessour to-day he spake; 

1 hold him certain a demoniac. 

Now eat your meat, and let the churl go play. 
Let him go hang himself a devil way!" 


*foolish **curse 

*foolish **thrive 

*judge, decide 
*impiously, wickedly 

Now stood the lorde's squier at the board. 

That carv'd his meat, and hearde word byword 

Of all this thing, which that I have you said. 

"My lord," quoth he, "be ye not *evil paid,* *displeased* 

I coulde telle, for a gowne-cloth,* *cloth for a gown* 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

To you, Sir Friar, so that ye be not wrot. 

How that this fart should even* dealed be *equally 

Among your convent, if it liked thee." 

"Tell," quoth the lord, "and thou shalt have anon 

A gowne-cloth, by God and by Saint John." 

"My lord," quoth he, "when that the weather is fair, 

Withoute wind, or perturbing of air. 

Let* bring a cart-wheel here into this hall, cause* 

But looke that it have its spokes all; 

Twelve spokes hath a cart-wheel commonly; 

And bring me then twelve friars, know ye why? 

For thirteen is a convent as I guess; < 25 > 

Your confessor here, for his worthiness. 

Shall *perform up* the number of his convent. *complete* 

Then shall they kneel adown by one assent. 

And to each spoke's end, in this mannere. 

Full sadly* lay his nose shall a frere; 

Your noble confessor there, God him save. 

Shall hold his nose upright under the nave. 

Then shall this churl, with belly stiff and tought* 

As any tabour,* hither be y-brought; 

And set him on the wheel right of this cart 

Upon the nave, and make him let a fart. 

And ye shall see, on peril of my life. 

By very proof that is demonstrative. 

That equally the sound of it will wend,* *go 

And eke the stink, unto the spokes' end. 

Save that this worthy man, your confessour' 

(Because he is a man of great honour). 

Shall have the firste fruit, as reason is; 

The noble usage of friars yet it is. 

The worthy men of them shall first be served. 

And certainly he hath it well deserved; 

He hath to-day taught us so muche good 

carefully, steadily 


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With preaching in the pulpit where he stood. 
That I may vouchesafe, I say for me. 
He had the firste smell of fartes three; 
And so would all his brethren hardily; 
He beareth him so fair and holily." 


The lord, the lady, and each man, save the frere, 
Saide, that Jankin spake in this mattere 
As well as Euclid, or as Ptolemy. 
Touching the churl, they said that subtilty 
And high wit made him speaken as he spake; 
He is no fool, nor no demoniac. 
And Jankin hath y-won a newe gown; 
My tale is done, we are almost at town. 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

me XD/e)^'^^ 

The Prologue. 

"SIR Clerk of Oxenford," our Hoste said, 

"Ye ride as still and coy, as doth a maid 

That were new spoused, sitting at the board: 

This day I heard not of your tongue a word. 

I trow ye study about some sophime:* *sophism 

But Solomon saith, every thing hath time. 

For Godde's sake, be of *better cheer,* *livelier mien* 

It is no time for to study here. 

Tell us some merry tale, by your fay;* *faith 

For what man that is entered in a play. 

He needes must unto that play assent. 

But preache not, as friars do in Lent, 

To make us for our olde sinnes weep. 

Nor that thy tale make us not to sleep. 

Tell us some merry thing of aventures. 

Your terms, your coloures, and your figures. 

Keep them in store, till so be ye indite 

High style, as when that men to kinges write. 

Speake so plain at this time, I you pray. 

That we may understande what ye say." 

This worthy Clerk benignely answer 'd; 

"Hoste," quoth he, "I am under your yerd,* *rod < 1 > 

Ye have of us as now the governance. 

And therefore would I do you obeisance. 

As far as reason asketh, hardily:* *boldly, truly 

I will you tell a tale, which that I 

Learn'd at Padova of a worthy clerk. 

As proved by his wordes and his werk. 

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He is now dead, and nailed in his chest, 

I pray to God to give his soul good rest. 

Francis Petrarc', the laureate poet,<2> 

Highte* this clerk, whose rhetoric so sweet 

Illumin'd all Itale of poetry. 

As Linian <3> did of philosophy. 

Or law, or other art particulere: 

But death, that will not suffer us dwell here 

But as it were a twinkling of an eye. 

Them both hath slain, and alle we shall die. 


"But forth to tellen of this worthy man. 
That taughte me this tale, as I began, 
I say that first he with high style inditeth 
(Ere he the body of his tale writeth) 
A proem, in the which describeth he 
Piedmont, and of Saluces <4> the country. 
And speaketh of the Pennine hilles high. 
That be the bounds of all West Lombardy: 
And of Mount Vesulus in special. 
Where as the Po out of a welle small 
Taketh his firste springing and his source. 
That eastward aye increaseth in his course 
T'Emilia-ward, <5> to Ferraro, and Venice, 
The which a long thing were to devise.* 
And truely, as to my judgement. 
Me thinketh it a thing impertinent,* 
Save that he would conveye his mattere: 
But this is the tale, which that ye shall hear." 

*was called 




Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

The Tale. 

Tars Prima.' 

*First Part* 

There is, right at the west side of Itale, 

Down at the root of Vesulus<2> the cold, 

A lusty* plain, abundant of vitaille;* *pleasant **victuals 

There many a town and tow'r thou may'st behold. 

That founded were in time of fathers old. 

And many another delectable sight; 

And Saluces this noble country hight. 

A marquis whilom lord was of that land. 
As were his worthy elders* him before. 
And obedient, aye ready to his hand. 
Were all his lieges, bothe less and more: 
Thus in delight he liv'd, and had done yore,* 
Belov'd and drad,* through favour of fortune. 
Both of his lordes and of his commune.* 


*held in reverence 

Therewith he was, to speak of lineage. 
The gentilest y-born of Lombardy, 
A fair person, and strong, and young of age. 
And full of honour and of courtesy: 
Discreet enough his country for to gie,* 
Saving in some things that he was to blame; 
And Walter was this younge lordes name. 

*guide, rule 

I blame him thus, that he consider'd not 
In time coming what might him betide. 
But on his present lust* was all his thought. 
And for to hawk and hunt on every side; 
Well nigh all other cares let he slide. 
And eke he would (that was the worst of all) 


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Wedde no wife for aught that might befall. 


Only that point his people bare so sore. 
That flockmel* on a day to him they went. 
And one of them, that wisest was of lore 
(Or elles that the lord would best assent 
That he should tell him what the people meant. 
Or elles could he well shew such mattere). 
He to the marquis said as ye shall hear. 


"O noble Marquis! your humanity 

Assureth us and gives us hardiness. 

As oft as time is of necessity. 

That we to you may tell our heaviness: 

Accepte, Lord, now of your gentleness. 

What we with piteous heart unto you plain,* 

And let your ears my voice not disdain. 

*complain of 

"All* have I nought to do in this mattere 
More than another man hath in this place. 
Yet forasmuch as ye, my Lord so dear. 
Have always shewed me favour and grace, 
I dare the better ask of you a space 
Of audience, to shewen our request. 
And ye, my Lord, to do right *as you lest.* 


*as pleaseth you* 

"For certes. Lord, so well us like you 

And all your work, and ev'r have done, that we 

Ne coulde not ourselves devise how 

We mighte live in more felicity: 

Save one thing. Lord, if that your will it be. 

That for to be a wedded man you lest; 

Then were your people *in sovereign hearte's rest.' 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

"Bowe your neck under the blissful yoke 
Of sovereignty, and not of service, 
Which that men call espousal or wedlock: 
And thinke. Lord, among your thoughtes wise. 
How that our dayes pass in sundry wise; 
For though we sleep, or wake, or roam, or ride. 
Aye fleeth time, it will no man abide. 

"And though your greene youthe flow'r as yet. 
In creepeth age always as still as stone. 
And death menaceth every age, and smit* 
In each estate, for there escapeth none: 
And all so certain as we know each one 
That we shall die, as uncertain we all 
Be of that day when death shall on us fall. 


"Accepte then of us the true intent,* *mind, desire 

That never yet refused youre best,* *command 

And we will. Lord, if that ye will assent. 

Choose you a wife, in short time at the lest,* *least 

Born of the gentilest and of the best 

Of all this land, so that it ought to seem 

Honour to God and you, as we can deem. 

"Deliver us out of all this busy dread,* *doubt 

And take a wife, for highe Godde's sake: 

For if it so befell, as God forbid. 

That through your death your lineage should slake,* *become extinct 

And that a strange successor shoulde take 

Your heritage, oh! woe were us on live:* *alive 

Wherefore we pray you hastily to wive." 

Their meeke prayer and their piteous cheer 
Made the marquis for to have pity. 

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"Ye will," quoth he, "mine owen people dear. 
To that I ne'er ere* thought constraine me. 
I me rejoiced of my liberty. 
That seldom time is found in marriage; 
Where I was free, I must be in servage!* 




"But natheless I see your true intent. 

And trust upon your wit, and have done aye: 

Wherefore of my free will I will assent 

To wedde me, as soon as e'er I may. 

But whereas ye have proffer'd me to-day 

To choose me a wife, I you release 

That choice, and pray you of that proffer cease. 

"For God it wot, that children often been 
Unlike their worthy elders them before, 
Bounte* comes all of God, not of the strene* 
Of which they be engender'd and y-bore: 
I trust in Godde's bounte, and therefore 
My marriage, and mine estate and rest, 
I *him betake;* he may do as him lest. 

*stock, race 

*commend to him 

"Let me alone in choosing of my wife; 
That charge upon my back I will endure: 
But I you pray, and charge upon your life. 
That what wife that I take, ye me assure 
To worship* her, while that her life may dure. 
In word and work both here and elleswhere. 
As she an emperore's daughter were. 


"And farthermore this shall ye swear, that ye 
Against my choice shall never grudge* nor strive. 
For since I shall forego my liberty 
At your request, as ever may I thrive. 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Where as mine heart is set, there will I live 

And but* ye will assent in such mannere, *unless 

I pray you speak no more of this mattere." 

With heartly will they sworen and assent 

To all this thing, there said not one wight nay: 

Beseeching him of grace, ere that they went. 

That he would grante them a certain day 

Of his espousal, soon as e'er he rnay. 

For yet always the people somewhat dread* 

Lest that the marquis woulde no wife wed. 

He granted them a day, such as him lest. 
On which he would be wedded sickerly,* 
And said he did all this at their request; 
And they with humble heart full buxomly,* 
Kneeling upon their knees full reverently. 
Him thanked all; and thus they have an end 
Of their intent, and home again they wend. 

*were in fear or doubt 

*obediently <3> 

And hereupon he to his officers 

Commanded for the feaste to purvey* *provide 

And to his privy knightes and squiers 

Such charge he gave, as him list on them lay: 

And they to his commandement obey. 

And each of them doth all his diligence 

To do unto the feast all reverence. 

*Pars Secunda* 

*Second Part* 

Not far from thilke* palace honourable. 
Where as this marquis shope* his marriage. 

*prepared; resolved on 

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There stood a thorp,* of sighte delectable. 
In which the poore folk of that village 
Hadde their beastes and their harbourage,* 
And of their labour took their sustenance. 
After the earthe gave them abundance. 

Among this poore folk there dwelt a man 
Which that was holden poorest of them all; 
But highe God sometimes sende can 
His grace unto a little ox's stall; 
Janicola men of that thorp him call. 
A daughter had he, fair enough to sight. 
And Griseldis this younge maiden hight. 

But for to speak of virtuous beauty. 

Then was she one the fairest under sun: 

Full poorely y-foster'd up was she; 

No *likerous lust* was in her heart y-run; 

Well ofter of the well than of the tun 

She drank, <4> and, for* she woulde virtue please 

She knew well labour, but no idle ease. 


*d welling 

luxurious pleasure* 


But though this maiden tender were of age; 

Yet in the breast of her virginity 

There was inclos'd a *sad and ripe corage;* 

And in great reverence and charity 

Her olde poore father foster'd she. 

A few sheep, spinning, on the field she kept. 

She woulde not be idle till she slept. 

*steadfast and mature 

And when she homeward came, she would bring 

Wortes,* and other herbes, times oft, *plants, cabbages 

The which she shred and seeth'd for her living. 

And made her bed full hard, and nothing soft: 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And aye she kept her father's life on loft* 
With ev'ry obeisance and diligence, 
That child may do to father's reverence. 

*up, aloft 

Upon Griselda, this poor creature, 
Full often sithes* this marquis set his eye. 
As he on hunting rode, paraventure:* 
And when it fell that he might her espy. 
He not with wanton looking of folly 
His eyen cast on her, but in sad* wise 
Upon her cheer* he would him oft advise;*' 

*by chance 

*countenance **consider 

Commending in his heart her womanhead. 
And eke her virtue, passing any wight 
Of so young age, as well in cheer as deed. 
For though the people have no great insight 
In virtue, he considered full right 
Her bounte,* and disposed that he would 
Wed only her, if ever wed he should. 


The day of wedding came, but no wight can 
Telle what woman that it shoulde be; 
For which marvail wonder 'd many a man. 
And saide, when they were in privity, 
"Will not our lord yet leave his vanity? 
Will he not wed? Alas, alas the while! 
Why will he thus himself and us beguile?" 

But natheless this marquis had *done make* 
Of gemmes, set in gold and in azure. 
Brooches and ringes, for Griselda's sake. 
And of her clothing took he the measure 
Of a maiden like unto her stature. 
And eke of other ornamentes all 

*caused to be made* 

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That unto such a wedding shoulde fall.* 



The time of undern* of the same day 
Approached, that this wedding shoulde be. 
And all the palace put was in array. 
Both hall and chamber, each in its degree. 
Houses of office stuffed with plenty 
There may'st thou see of dainteous vitaille,* 
That maybe found, as far as lasts Itale. 

evening < 

*victuals, provisions 

This royal marquis, richely array 'd, 
Lordes and ladies in his company. 
The which unto the feaste were pray'd. 
And of his retinue the bach'lery. 
With many a sound of sundry melody. 
Unto the village, of the which I told. 
In this array the right way did they hold. 

Griseld' of this (God wot) full innocent. 

That for her shapen* was all this array. 

To fetche water at a well is went. 

And home she came as soon as e'er she may. 

For well she had heard say, that on that day 

The marquis shoulde wed, and, if she might. 

She fain would have seen somewhat of that sight. 


She thought, "I will with other maidens stand. 
That be my fellows, in our door, and see 
The marchioness; and therefore will I fand* 
To do at home, as soon as it may be. 
The labour which belongeth unto me. 
And then I may at leisure her behold. 
If she this way unto the castle hold." 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

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And as she would over the threshold gon, 
The marquis came and gan for her to call, 
And she set down her water-pot anon 
Beside the threshold, in an ox's stall. 
And down upon her knees she gan to fall. 
And with sad* countenance kneeled still. 
Till she had heard what was the lorde's will. 

The thoughtful marquis spake unto the maid 
Full soberly, and said in this mannere: 
"Where is your father, Griseldis?" he said. 
And she with reverence, *in humble cheer,* 
Answered, "Lord, he is all ready here." 
And in she went withoute longer let* 
And to the marquis she her father fet.* 

He by the hand then took the poore man. 
And saide thus, when he him had aside: 
"Janicola, I neither may nor can 
Longer the pleasance of mine hearte hide; 
If that thou vouchesafe, whatso betide. 
Thy daughter will I take, ere that I wend,* 
As for my wife, unto her life's end. 

"Thou lovest me, that know I well certain. 
And art my faithful liegeman y-bore,* 
And all that liketh me, I dare well sayn 
It liketh thee; and specially therefore 
Tell me that point, that I have said before, — 
If that thou wilt unto this purpose draw. 
To take me as for thy son-in-law." 

This sudden case* the man astonied so. 
That red he wax'd, abash'd,* and all quaking 


*with humble air* 




He stood; unnethes* said he wordes mo'. 
But only thus; "Lord," quoth he, "my willing 
Is as ye will, nor against your liking 
I will no thing, mine owen lord so dear; 
Right as you list governe this mattere." 

"Then will I," quoth the marquis softely, 
"That in thy chamber I, and thou, and she. 
Have a collation;* and know'st thou why? 
For I will ask her, if her will it be 
To be my wife, and rule her after me: 
And all this shall be done in thy presence, 
I will not speak out of thine audience."* 

And in the chamber while they were about 
The treaty, which ye shall hereafter hear. 
The people came into the house without. 
And wonder 'd them in how honest mannere 
And tenderly she kept her father dear; 
But utterly Griseldis wonder might. 
For never erst* ne saw she such a sight. 

No wonder is though that she be astoned,* 
To see so great a guest come in that place. 
She never was to no such guestes woned;* 
For which she looked with full pale face. 
But shortly forth this matter for to chase,* 
These are the wordes that the marquis said 
To this benigne, very,* faithful maid. 

"Griseld'," he said, "ye shall well understand. 
It liketh to your father and to me 
That I you wed, and eke it may so stand. 
As I suppose ye will that it so be: 




*accustomed, wont 
*push on, pursue 
*true <6> 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

But these demandes ask I first," quoth he, 
"Since that it shall be done in hasty wise; 
Will ye assent, or elles you advise?* 

"I say this, be ye ready with good heart 

To all my lust,* and that I freely may. 

As me best thinketh, *do you* laugh or smart. 

And never ye to grudge,* night nor day. 

And eke when I say Yea, ye say not Nay, 

Neither byword, nor frowning countenance? 

Swear this, and here I swear our alliance." 

Wond ring upon this word, quaking for dread. 

She saide; "Lord, indigne and unworthy 

Am I to this honour that ye me bede,* 

But as ye will yourself, right so will I: 

And here I swear, that never willingly 

In word or thought I will you disobey. 

For to be dead; though me were loth to dey"* 

"This is enough, Griselda mine," quoth he. 
And forth he went with a full sober cheer. 
Out at the door, and after then came she. 
And to the people he said in this mannere: 
"This is my wife," quoth he, "that standeth here. 
Honoure her, and love her, I you pray. 
Whoso me loves; there is no more to say." 

And, for that nothing of her olde gear 
She shoulde bring into his house, he bade 
That women should despoile* her right there; 
Of which these ladies were nothing glad 
To handle her clothes wherein she was clad: 
But natheless this maiden bright of hue 


*cause you to* 




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From foot to head they clothed have all new. 


Her haires have they comb'd that lay untress'd* 
Full rudely, and with their fingers small 
A crown upon her head they have dress'd. 
And set her full of nouches <7> great and small: 
Of her array why should I make a tale? 
Unneth* the people her knew for her fairness. 
When she transmuted was in such ri chess. 

The marquis hath her spoused with a ring 
Brought for the same cause, and then her set 
Upon a horse snow-white, and well ambling. 
And to his palace, ere he longer let* 
With joyful people, that her led and met. 
Conveyed her; and thus the day they spend 
In revel, till the sunne gan descend. 

And, shortly forth this tale for to chase, 

I say, that to this newe marchioness 

God hath such favour sent her of his grace. 

That it ne seemed not by likeliness 

That she was born and fed in rudeness, — 

As in a cot, or in an ox's stall, — 

But nourish'd in an emperore s hall. 

To every wight she waxen* is so dear 
And worshipful, that folk where she was born. 
That from her birthe knew her year by year, 
*Unnethes trowed* they, but durst have sworn. 
That to Janicof of whom I spake before. 
She was not daughter, for by conjecture 
Them thought she was another creature. 





*scarcely believed* 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

For though that ever virtuous was she, 
She was increased in such excellence 
Of thewes* good, y-set in high bounte. 
And so discreet, and fair of eloquence. 
So benign, and so digne* of reverence. 
And coulde so the people's heart embrace. 
That each her lov'd that looked on her face. 

Not only of Saluces in the town 
Published was the bounte of her name. 
But eke besides in many a regioun; 
If one said well, another said the same: 
So spread of here high bounte the fame. 
That men and women, young as well as old. 
Went to Saluces, her for to behold. 

Thus Walter lowly, — nay, but royally, - 

Wedded with fortn'ate honestete,* 

In Godde's peace lived full easily 

At home, and outward grace enough had he: 

And, for he saw that under low degree 

Was honest virtue hid, the people him held 

A prudent man, and that is seen full seld'.* 

Not only this Griseldis through her wit 
*Couth all the feat* of wifely homeliness. 
But eke, when that the case required it. 
The common profit coulde she redress: 
There n'as discord, rancour, nor heaviness 
In all the land, that she could not appease. 
And wisely bring them all in rest and ease 

Though that her husband absent were or non,* 
If gentlemen or other of that country. 



*knew all the duties* 


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Were wroth,* she woulde bringe them at one, *at feud 

So wise and ripe wordes hadde she. 

And judgement of so great equity. 

That she from heaven sent was, as men wend,* 

People to save, and every wrong t'amend 


*weened, imagined 

Not longe time after that this Griseld' 
Was wedded, she a daughter had y-bore; 
All she had lever* borne a knave** child. 
Glad was the marquis and his folk therefore; 
For, though a maiden child came all before. 
She may unto a knave child attain 
By likelihood, since she is not barren. 

*rather **boy 


*Third Part* 

There fell, as falleth many times mo'. 

When that his child had sucked but a throw,* little while 

This marquis in his hearte longed so 

To tempt his wife, her sadness* for to know, *steadfastness 

That he might not out of his hearte throw 

This marvellous desire his wife t'asssay;* *try 

Needless,* God wot, he thought her to affray.** *without cause 

**alarm, disturb 
He had assayed her anough before. 
And found her ever good; what needed it 
Her for to tempt, and always more and more? 
Though some men praise it for a subtle wit. 
But as for me, I say that *evil it sit* *it ill became him* 

T'assay a wife when that it is no need. 
And putte her in anguish and in dread. 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 


For which this marquis wrought in this mannere: 
He came at night alone there as she lay, 
With Sterne face and with full troubled cheer, 
And saide thus; "Griseld'," quoth he "that day 
That I you took out of your poor array. 
And put you in estate of high nobless. 
Ye have it not forgotten, as I guess. 

"I say, Griseld', this present dignity. 

In which that I have put you, as I trow* *believe 

Maketh you not forgetful for to be 

That I you took in poor estate full low. 

For any weal you must yourselfe know 

Take heed of every word that I you say. 

There is no wight that hears it but we tway* 

"Ye know yourself well how that ye came here 

Into this house, it is not long ago; 

And though to me ye be right lefe* and dear. 

Unto my gentles* ye be nothing so: 

They say, to them it is great shame and woe 

For to be subject, and be in servage. 

To thee, that born art of small lineage. 

"And namely* since thy daughter was y-bore *especially 

These wordes have they spoken doubteless; 

But I desire, as I have done before. 

To live my life with them in rest and peace: 

I may not in this case be reckeless; 

I must do with thy daughter for the best. 

Not as I would, but as my gentles lest.* *please 

"And yet, God wot, this is full loth* to me: *odious 

But natheless withoute your weeting* *knowing 

''nobles, gentlefolk 

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I will nought do; but this will I," quoth he, 
"That ye to me assenten in this thing. 
Shew now your patience in your working. 
That ye me hight* and swore in your village 
The day that maked was our marriage." 


When she had heard all this, she not amev'd* 
Neither in word, in cheer, nor countenance 
(For, as it seemed, she was not aggriev'd); 
She saide; "Lord, all lies in your pleasance. 
My child and I, with hearty obeisance 
Be youres all, and ye may save or spill* 
Your owen thing: work then after your will. 

"There may no thing, so God my soule save, 
*Like to* you, that may displease me: 
Nor I desire nothing for to have. 
Nor dreade for to lose, save only ye: 
This will is in mine heart, and aye shall be. 
No length of time, nor death, may this deface. 
Nor change my corage* to another place." 

Glad was the marquis for her answering. 
But yet he feigned as he were not so; 
All dreary was his cheer and his looking 
When that he should out of the chamber go. 
Soon after this, a furlong way or two,<8> 
He privily hath told all his intent 
Unto a man, and to his wife him sent. 

A *manner sergeant* was this private* man. 
The which he faithful often founden had 
In thinges great, and eke such folk well can 
Do execution in thinges bad: 




*be pleasing* 

*spirit, heart 

*kind of squire* 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

The lord knew well, that he him loved and drad.* 
And when this sergeant knew his lorde s will, 
Into the chamber stalked he full still. 


"Madam," he said, "ye must forgive it me. 
Though I do thing to which I am constrain'd; 
Ye be so wise, that right well knowe ye 
*That lordes' hestes may not be y-feign'd;* 
They may well be bewailed and complain'd. 
But men must needs unto their lust* obey; 
And so will I, there is no more to say 

*seenote <9>* 

"This child I am commanded for to take." 

And spake no more, but out the child he hent* *seized 

Dispiteously* and gan a cheer** to make *unpityingly **show, aspect 

As though he would have slain it ere he went. 

Griseldis must all suffer and consent: 

And as a lamb she sat there meek and still. 

And let this cruel sergeant do his will 

Suspicious* was the diffame** of this man, *ominous **evil reputation 

Suspect his face, suspect his word also. 

Suspect the time in which he this began: 

Alas! her daughter, that she loved so. 

She weened* he would have it slain right tho,** *thought **then 

But natheless she neither wept nor siked,* *sighed 

Conforming her to what the marquis liked. 

But at the last to speake she began. 

And meekly she unto the sergeant pray'd. 

So as he was a worthy gentle man. 

That she might kiss her child, ere that it died: 

And in her barme* this little child she laid, *lap, bosom 

With full sad face, and gan the child to bless,* *cross 

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And lulled it, and after gan it kiss. 


And thus she said in her benigne voice: 
Farewell, my child, I shall thee never see; 
But since I have thee marked with the cross. 
Of that father y-blessed may'st thou be 
That for us died upon a cross of tree: 
Thy soul, my little child, I *him betake,* 
For this night shalt thou dien for my sake. 

*commit unto him* 

I trow* that to a norice** in this case 

It had been hard this ruthe* for to see: 

Well might a mother then have cried, "Alas!" 

But natheless so sad steadfast was she. 

That she endured all adversity. 

And to the sergeant meekely she said, 

"Have here again your little younge maid. 

*believe **nurse 
*pitiful sight 

"Go now," quoth she, "and do my lord's behest. 
And one thing would I pray you of your grace, 
*But iP my lord forbade you at the least. 
Bury this little body in some place. 
That neither beasts nor birdes it arace."* 
But he no word would to that purpose say. 
But took the child and went upon his way. 

*tear <10> 

The sergeant came unto his lord again. 
And of Griselda's words and of her cheer* 
He told him point for point, in short and plain. 
And him presented with his daughter dear. 
Somewhat this lord had ruth in his mannere. 
But natheless his purpose held he still. 
As lordes do, when they will have their will; 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And bade this sergeant that he privily 

Shoulde the child full softly wind and wrap, 

With alle circumstances tenderly, 

And carry it in a coffer, or in lap; 

But, upon pain his head off for to swap,* 

That no man shoulde know of his intent. 

Nor whence he came, nor whither that he went; 


But at Bologna, to his sister dear. 

That at that time of Panic'* was Countess, 

He should it take, and shew her this mattere. 

Beseeching her to do her business 

This child to foster in all gentleness. 

And whose child it was he bade her hide 

From every wight, for aught that might betide. 


The sergeant went, and hath fulfdl'd this thing. 

But to the marquis now returne we; 

For now went he full fast imagining 

If by his wife's cheer he mighte see. 

Or by her wordes apperceive, that she 

Were changed; but he never could her fmd. 

But ever-in-one* alike sad** and kind. *constantly **steadfast 

As glad, as humble, as busy in service. 

And eke in love, as she was wont to be. 

Was she to him, in every *manner wise;* *sort of way* 

And of her daughter not a word spake she; 

*No accident for no adversity* *no change of humour resulting 

Was seen in her, nor e'er her daughter's name from her affliction* 

She named, or in earnest or in game. 

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*Pars Quarta* 

*Fourth Part* 

In this estate there passed be four year 

Ere she with childe was; but, as God wo 'Id, 

A knave* child she bare by this Waltere, *boy 

Full gracious and fair for to behold; 

And when that folk it to his father told. 

Not only he, but all his country, merry 

Were for this child, and God they thank and hery* *praise 

When it was two year old, and from the breast 
Departed* of the norice, on a day 
This marquis *caughte yet another lest* 
To tempt his wife yet farther, if he may. 
Oh! needless was she tempted in as say;* 
But wedded men *not connen no measure,* 
When that they fmd a patient creature. 

*taken, weaned 
*was seized by yet 
another desire* 
*know no moderation* 

"Wife," quoth the marquis, "ye have heard ere this 

My people *sickly bear* our marriage; *regard with displeasure* 

And namely* since my son y-boren is, *especially 

Now is it worse than ever in all our age: 

The murmur slays mine heart and my corage. 

For to mine ears cometh the voice so smart,* *painfully 

That it well nigh destroyed hath mine heart. 

"Now say they thus, 'When Walter is y-gone. 
Then shall the blood of Janicol' succeed. 
And be our lord, for other have we none:' 
Such wordes say my people, out of drede.* 
Well ought I of such murmur take heed. 
For certainly I dread all such sentence,* 
Though they not *plainen in mine audience 


expression of opinion 

*complain in my hearing* 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

"I woulde live in peace, if that I might; 
Wherefore I am disposed utterly, 
As I his sister served ere* by night. 
Right so think I to serve him privily 
This warn I you, that ye not suddenly 
Out of yourself for no woe should outraie;* 
Be patient, and thereof I you pray" 


*become outrageous, rave 

"I have," quoth she, "said thus, and ever shall, 
I will no thing, nor n'ill no thing, certain. 
But as you list; not grieveth me at all 
Though that my daughter and my son be slain 
At your commandement; that is to sayn, 
I have not had no part of children twain. 
But first sickness, and after woe and pain. 

"Ye be my lord, do with your owen thing 

Right as you list, and ask no rede of me: 

For, as I left at home all my clothing 

When I came first to you, right so," quoth she, 

"Left I my will and all my liberty. 

And took your clothing: wherefore I you pray. 

Do your pleasance, I will your lust* obey 


"And, certes, if I hadde prescience 

Your will to know, ere ye your lust* me told, 

I would it do withoute negligence: 

But, now I know your lust, and what ye wold. 

All your pleasance firm and stable I hold; 

For, wist I that my death might do you ease. 

Right gladly would I dien you to please. 


"Death may not make no comparisoun 

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Unto your love." And when this marquis say* 
The Constance of his wife, he cast ad own 
His eyen two, and wonder 'd how she may 
In patience suffer all this array; 
And forth he went with dreary countenance; 
But to his heart it was full great pleasance. 


This ugly sergeant, in the same wise 
That he her daughter caught, right so hath he 
(Or worse, if men can any worse devise,) 
Y-hent* her son, that full was of beauty: 
And ever-in-one* so patient was she. 
That she no cheere made of heaviness. 
But kiss'd her son, and after gan him bless. 


Save this she prayed him, if that he might. 
Her little son he would in earthe grave,* 
His tender limbes, delicate to sight. 
From fowles and from beastes for to save. 
But she none answer of him mighte have; 
He went his way, as him nothing ne raught,* 
But to Bologna tenderly it brought. 



The marquis wonder 'd ever longer more 

Upon her patience; and, if that he 

Not hadde soothly knowen therebefore 

That perfectly her children loved she. 

He would have ween'd* that of some subtilty, *thought 

And of malice, or for cruel corage,* *disposition 

She hadde suffer 'd this with sad* visage. *steadfast, unmoved 

But well he knew, that, next himself, certain 
She lov'd her children best in every wise. 
But now of women would I aske fain. 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

If these assayes mighte not suffice? 
What could a sturdy* husband more devise 
To prove her wifehood and her steadfastness, 
And he continuing ev'r in sturdiness? 


But there be folk of such condition, 
That, when they have a certain purpose take, 
Thiey cannot stint* of their intention. 
But, right as they were bound unto a stake. 
They will not of their firste purpose slake:* 
Right so this marquis fully hath purpos'd 
To tempt his wife, as he was first dispos'd. 

*slacken, abate 

He waited, if by word or countenance 
That she to him was changed of corage:* 
But never could he finde variance. 
She was aye one in heart and in visage. 
And aye the farther that she was in age. 
The more true (if that it were possible) 
She was to him in love, and more penible.* 


*painstaking in devotion 

For which it seemed thus, that of them two 
There was but one will; for, as Walter lest,* 
The same pleasance was her lust* also; 
And, God be thanked, all fell for the best. 
She shewed well, for no worldly unrest, 
A wife as of herself no thinge should 
Will, in effect, but as her husbaud would. 


The sland'r of Walter wondrous wide sprad. 
That of a cruel heart he wickedly. 
For* he a poore woman wedded had. 
Had murder 'd both his children privily: 
Such murmur was among them commonly. 


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No wonder is: for to the people's ear 

There came no word, but that they murder 'd were. 


For which, whereas his people therebefore 
Had lov'd him well, the sland'r of his diffame* 
Made them that they him hated therefore. 
To be a murd'rer is a hateful name. 
But natheless, for earnest or for game. 
He of his cruel purpose would not stent; 
To tempt his wife was set all his intent. 


When that his daughter twelve year was of age. 
He to the Court of Rome, in subtle wise 
Informed of his will, sent his message,* 
Commanding him such bulles to devise 
As to his cruel purpose may suffice. 
How that the Pope, for his people's rest. 
Bade him to wed another, if him lest.* 



I say he bade they shoulde counterfeit 

The Pope's bulles, making mention 

That he had leave his firste wife to lete,* *leave 

To stinte* rancour and dissension *put an end to 

Betwixt his people and him: thus spake the bull. 

The which they have published at full. 

The rude people, as no wonder is. 
Weened* full well that it had been right so: 
But, when these tidings came to Griseldis. 
I deeme that her heart was full of woe; 
But she, alike sad* for evermo'. 
Disposed was, this humble creature, 
Th' adversity of fortune all t' endure; 

*thought, believed 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

*to the utmost extent 
of her power* 

Abiding ever his lust and his pleasance, 
To whom that she was given, heart and all, 
As *to her very worldly suffisance.* 
But, shortly if this story tell I shall. 
The marquis written hath in special 
A letter, in which he shewed his intent. 
And secretly it to Bologna sent. 

To th' earl of Panico, which hadde tho* *there 

Wedded his sister, pray'd he specially 

To bringe home again his children two 

In honourable estate all openly: 

But one thing he him prayed utterly. 

That he to no wight, though men would inquere, 

Shoulde not tell whose children that they were. 

But say, the maiden should y-wedded be 
Unto the marquis of Saluce anon. 
And as this earl was prayed, so did he. 
For, at day set, he on his way is gone 
Toward Saluce, and lorde's many a one 
In rich array, this maiden for to guide, — 
Her younge brother riding her beside. 

Arrayed was toward* her marriage *as if for 

This freshe maiden, full of gemmes clear; 

Her brother, which that seven year was of age. 

Arrayed eke full fresh in his mannere: 

And thus, in great nobless, and with glad cheer. 

Toward Saluces shaping their journey. 

From day to day they rode upon their way. 

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*Pars Quinta.* *Fifth Part* 


*Among all this,* after his wick' usage. 

The marquis, yet his wife to tempte more 

To the uttermost proof of her corage. 

Fully to have experience and lore* 

If that she were as steadfast as before. 

He on a day, in open audience. 

Full boisterously said her this sentence: 

"Certes, Griseld', I had enough pleasance 
To have you to my wife, for your goodness. 
And for your truth, and for your obeisance. 
Not for your lineage, nor for your richess; 
But now know I, in very soothfastness. 
That in great lordship, if I well advise. 
There is great servitude in sundry wise. 

"I may not do as every ploughman may: 
My people me constraineth for to take 
Another wife, and cryeth day by day; 
And eke the Pope, rancour for to slake, 
Consenteth it, that dare I undertake: 
And truely, thus much I will you say. 
My newe wife is coming by the way. 

"Be strong of heart, and *void anon* her place; 
And thilke* dower that ye brought to me. 
Take it again, I grant it of my grace. 
Returne to your father's house," quoth he; 
"No man may always have prosperity; 
With even heart I rede* you to endure 
The stroke of fortune or of aventure." 

*while all this was 
going on* 


*immediately vacate* 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And she again answer 'd in patience: 

"My Lord," quoth she, "I know, and knew alway. 

How that betwixte your magnificence 

And my povert' no wight nor can nor may 

Make comparison, it *is no nay;* *cannot be denied* 

I held me never digne* in no mannere *worthy 

To be your wife, nor yet your chamberere.* *chamber-maid 

"And in this house, where ye me lady made, 
(The highe God take I for my witness. 
And all so wisly* he my soule glade),** 
I never held me lady nor mistress. 
But humble servant to your worthiness. 
And ever shall, while that my life may dure, 
Aboven every worldly creature. 

*surely **gladdened 

"That ye so long, of your benignity. 
Have holden me in honour and nobley* 
Where as I was not worthy for to be. 
That thank I God and you, to whom I pray 
Foryield* it you; there is no more to say: 
Unto my father gladly will I wend,* 
And with him dwell, unto my lifes end. 


"Where I was foster 'd as a child full small. 
Till I be dead my life there will I lead, 
A widow clean in body, heart, and all. 
For since I gave to you my maidenhead. 
And am your true wife, it is no dread,* 
God shielde* such a lordes wife to take 
Another man to husband or to make.* 


"And of your newe wife, God of his grace 

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So grant you weal and all prosperity: 
For I will gladly yield to her my place. 
In which that I was blissful wont to be. 
For since it liketh you, my Lord," quoth she, 
"That whilom weren all mine hearte s rest. 
That I shall go, I will go when you lest. 

"But whereas ye me proffer such dowaire 
As I first brought, it is well in my mind. 
It was my wretched clothes, nothing fair. 
The which to me were hard now for to find. 
O goode God! how gentle and how kind 
Ye seemed by your speech and your visage. 
The day that maked was our marriage! 


"But sooth is said, — algate* I find it true. 
For in effect it proved is on me, — 
Love is not old as when that it is new. 
But certes. Lord, for no adversity. 
To dien in this case, it shall not be 
That e'er in word or work I shall repent 
That I you gave mine heart in whole intent. 

*at all events 

"My Lord, ye know that in my father's place 
Ye did me strip out of my poore weed,* 
And richely ye clad me of your grace; 
To you brought I nought elles, out of dread. 
But faith, and nakedness, and maidenhead; 
And here again your clothing I restore. 
And eke your wedding ring for evermore. 


"The remnant of your jewels ready be 
Within your chamber, I dare safely sayn: 
Naked out of my father's house," quoth she. 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

"I came, and naked I must turn again. 

All your pleasance would I follow fain:* *cheerfully 

But yet I hope it be not your intent 

That smockless* I out of your palace went. *naked 

"Ye could not do so dishonest* a thing, *dishonourable 

That thilke* womb, in which your children lay, *that 

Shoulde before the people, in my walking. 

Be seen all bare: and therefore I you pray. 

Let me not like a worm go by the way: 

Remember you, mine owen Lord so dear, 

I was your wife, though I unworthy were. 

"Wherefore, in guerdon* of my maidenhead, *reward 

Which that I brought and not again I bear. 

As vouchesafe to give me to my meed* *reward 

But such a smock as I was wont to wear. 

That I therewith may wrie* the womb of her *cover 

That was your wife: and here I take my leave 

Of you, mine owen Lord, lest I you grieve." 

"The smock," quoth he, "that thou hast on thy back. 

Let it be still, and bear it forth with thee." 

But well unnethes* thilke word he spake, *with difficulty 

But went his way for ruth and for pity. 

Before the folkherselfe stripped she. 

And in her smock, with foot and head all bare. 

Toward her father's house forth is she fare.* *gone 

The folk her follow'd weeping on her way. 
And fortune aye they cursed as they gon:* 
But she from weeping kept her eyen drey* 
Nor in this time worde spake she none. 
Her father, that this tiding heard anon. 


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Cursed the day and time, that nature 
Shope* him to be a living creature. 

*formed, ordained 

For, out of doubt, this olde poore man 

Was ever in suspect of her marriage: 

For ever deem'd he, since it first began. 

That when the lord *fulfiird had his corage,* *had gratified his whim* 

He woulde think it were a disparage* *disparagement 

To his estate, so low for to alight. 

And voide* her as soon as e'er he might. *dismiss 

Against* his daughter hastily went he 
(For he by noise of folk knew her coming). 
And with her olde coat, as it might be. 
He cover'd her, full sorrowfully weeping: 
But on her body might he it not bring. 
For rude was the cloth, and more of age 
By dayes fele* than at her marriage. 

Thus with her father for a certain space 
Dwelled this flow'r of wifely patience. 
That neither by her words nor by her face. 
Before the folk nor eke in their absence, 
Ne shewed she that her was done offence. 
Nor of her high estate no remembrance 
Ne hadde she, *as by* her countenance. 

No wonder is, for in her great estate 
Her ghost* was ever in plein** humility; 
No tender mouth, no hearte delicate. 
No pomp, and no semblant of royalty; 
But full of patient benignity. 
Discreet and prideless, aye honourable. 
And to her husband ever meek and stable. 

to meet 

*many < 1 1 > 

*to judge from* 
*spirit **full 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Men speak of Job, and most for his humbless, 
As clerkes, when them list, can well indite. 

Namely* of men; but, as in soothfastness, *particularly 

Though clerkes praise women but a lite,* *little 

There can no man in humbless him acquite 
As women can, nor can be half so true 

As women be, *but it be fall of new* *unless it has lately 

come to pass* 

*Pars Sexta* 

*Sixth Part* 

From Bologn' is the earl of Panic' come. 

Of which the fame up sprang to more and less; 

And to the people's eares all and some 

Was know'n eke, that a newe marchioness 

He with him brought, in such pomp and richess 

That never was there seen with manne's eye 

So noble array in all West Lombardy 

The marquis, which that shope* and knew all this, *arranged 

Ere that the earl was come, sent his message* *messenger 

For thilke poore sely* Griseldis; *innocent 
And she, with humble heart and glad visage. 

Nor with no swelling thought in her corage,* *mind 

Came at his best,* and on her knees her set, *command 

And rev'rently and wisely she him gret.* *greeted 

"Griseld'," quoth he, "my will is utterly. 
This maiden, that shall wedded be to me. 
Received be to-morrow as royally 
As it possible is in my house to be; 
And eke that every wight in his degree 
Have *his estate* in sitting and service. 

*what befits his 

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And in high pleasance, as I can devise. 



"I have no women sufficient, certain. 

The chambers to array in ordinance 

After my lust;* and therefore would I fain *pleasure 

That thine were all such manner governance: 

Thou knowest eke of old all my pleasance; 

Though thine array be bad, and ill besey,* *poor to look on 

*Do thou thy devoir at the leaste way"* * do your duty in the 

quickest manner* 
"Not only. Lord, that I am glad," quoth she, 
"To do your lust, but I desire also 
You for to serve and please in my degree, 
Withoute fainting, and shall evermo': 
Nor ever for no weal, nor for no woe, 

Ne shall the ghost* within mine hearte stent** *spirit **cease 

To love you best with all my true intent." 

And with that word she gan the house to dight,* 
And tables for to set, and beds to make. 
And *pained her* to do all that she might. 
Praying the chambereres* for Godde's sake 
To hasten them, and faste sweep and shake. 
And she the most serviceable of all 
Hath ev'ry chamber arrayed, and his hall. 


*she took pains* 

Aboute undern* gan the earl alight, *afternoon <5> 

That with him brought these noble children tway; 

For which the people ran to see the sight 

Of their array, so *richely besey;* *rich to behold* 

And then *at erst* amonges them they say, *for the first time* 

That Walter was no fool, though that him lest* *pleased 

To change his wife; for it was for the best. 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

For she is fairer, as they deemen* all, 

Than is Griseld', and more tender of age. 

And fairer fruit between them shoulde fall. 

And more pleasant, for her high lineage: 

Her brother eke so fair was of visage. 

That them to see the people hath caught pleasance. 

Commending now the marquis' governance. 


"O stormy people, unsad* and ev'r untrue. 
And undiscreet, and changing as a vane. 
Delighting ev'r in rumour that is new. 
For like the moon so waxe ye and wane: 
Aye full of clapping, *dear enough a jane,* 
Your doom* is false, your Constance evil preveth,^ 
A full great fool is he that you believeth." 


worth nothing <12>* 
^judgment **proveth 

Thus saide the sad* folk in that city. 
When that the people gazed up and down; 
For they were glad, right for the novelty. 
To have a newe lady of their town. 
No more of this now make I mentioun. 
But to Griseld' again I will me dress. 
And tell her constancy and business. 


Full busy was Griseld' in ev'ry thing 

That to the feaste was appertinent; 

Right nought was she abash'd* of her clothing. 

Though it were rude, and somedeal eke to-rent;* 

But with glad cheer* unto the gate she went 

With other folk, to greet the marchioness. 

And after that did forth her business. 


With so glad cheer* his guestes she receiv'd *expression 

And so conningly* each in his degree, *cleverly, skilfully 

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That no defaulte no man apperceiv'd. 
But aye they wonder 'd what she mighte be 
That in so poor array was for to see. 
And coude* such honour and reverence; 
And worthily they praise her prudence. 


*knew, understood 

In all this meane while she not stent* 

This maid, and eke her brother, to commend 

With all her heart in full benign intent. 

So well, that no man could her praise amend: 

But at the last, when that these lordes wend* 

To sitte down to meat, he gan to call 

Griseld', as she was busy in the hall. 



"Griseld'," quoth he, as it were in his play, 
"How liketh thee my wife, and her beauty?" 
"Right well, my Lord," quoth she, "for, in good fay* 
A fairer saw I never none than she: 
I pray to God give you prosperity; 
And so I hope, that he will to you send 
Pleasance enough unto your lives end. 


"One thing beseech I you, and warn also. 
That ye not pricke with no tormenting 
This tender maiden, as ye have done mo:* 
For she is foster 'd in her nourishing 
More tenderly, and, to my supposing. 
She mighte not adversity endure 
As could a poore foster 'd creature." 


And when this Walter saw her patience. 
Her gladde cheer, and no malice at all. 
And* he so often had her done offence. 
And she aye sad* and constant as a wall. 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Continuing ev'r her innocence o'er all, 
The sturdy marquis gan his hearte dress* 
To rue upon her wifely steadfastness. 

"This is enough, Griselda mine," quoth he, 

"Be now no more *aghast, nor evil paid,* 

I have thy faith and thy benignity 

As well as ever woman was, assay 'd. 

In great estate and poorely array 'd: 

Now know I, deare wife, thy steadfastness;" 

And her in arms he took, and gan to kiss. 

And she for wonder took of it no keep;* 
She hearde not what thing he to her said: 
She far'd as she had start out of a sleep. 
Till she out of her mazedness abraid.* 
"Griseld'," quoth he, "by God that for us died. 
Thou art my wife, none other I have. 
Nor ever had, as God my soule save. 

"This is thy daughter, which thou hast suppos'd 

To be my wife; that other faithfully 

Shall be mine heir, as I have aye dispos'd; 

Thou bare them of thy body truely: 

At Bologna kept I them privily: 

Take them again, for now may'st thou not say 

That thou hast lorn* none of thy children tway. 

"And folk, that otherwise have said of me, 
I warn them well, that I have done this deed 
For no malice, nor for no cruelty. 
But to assay in thee thy womanhead: 
And not to slay my children (God forbid). 
But for to keep them privily and still. 


*afraid, nor displeased* 




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Till I thy purpose knew, and all thy will." 

When she this heard, in swoon adown she falleth 

For piteous joy; and after her swooning. 

She both her younge children to her calleth. 

And in her armes piteously weeping 

Embraced them, and tenderly kissing. 

Full like a mother, with her salte tears 

She bathed both their visage and their hairs. 

O, what a piteous thing it was to see 

Her swooning, and her humble voice to hear! 

"Grand mercy. Lord, God thank it you," quoth she. 

That ye have saved me my children dear; 

Now reck* I never to be dead right here; *care 

Since I stand in your love, and in your grace. 

No *force oP death, nor when my spirit pace.* *no matter for* *pass 

"O tender, O dear, O young children mine. 

Your woeful mother *weened steadfastly* 

That cruel houndes, or some foul vermine. 

Had eaten you; but God of his mercy. 

And your benigne father tenderly 

Have *done you keep:"* and in that same stound* 

All suddenly she swapt** down to the ground. 

*hour **fell 
And in her swoon so sadly* holdeth she 
Her children two, when she gan them embrace. 
That with great sleight* and great difficulty 
The children from her arm they can arace,* 
O! many a tear on many a piteous face 
Down ran of them that stoode her beside, 
Unneth'* aboute her might they abide. 

*believed firmly* 

*caused you to 
be preserved* 


*pull away 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

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Walter her gladdeth, and her sorrow slaketh:* *assuages 

She riseth up abashed* from her trance, *astonished 

And every wight her joy and feaste maketh, 

Till she hath caught again her countenance. 

Walter her doth so faithfully pleasance, 

That it was dainty for to see the cheer 

Betwixt them two, since they be met in fere.* *together 

The ladies, when that they their time sey,* *saw 

Have taken her, and into chamber gone. 

And stripped her out of her rude array. 

And in a cloth of gold that brightly shone. 

And with a crown of many a riche stone 

Upon her head, they into hall her brought: 

And there she was honoured as her ought. 

Thus had this piteous day a blissful end; 

For every man and woman did his might 

This day in mirth and revel to dispend. 

Till on the welkin* shone the starres bright: *firmament 

For more solemn in every mannes sight 

This feaste was, and greater of costage,* *expense 

Than was the revel of her marriage. 

Full many a year in high prosperity 
Lived these two in concord and in rest; 
And richely his daughter married he 
Unto a lord, one of the worthiest 
Of all Itale; and then in peace and rest 
His wife's father in his court he kept. 
Till that the soul out of his body crept. 

His son succeeded in his heritage. 

In rest and peace, after his father's day: 

And fortunate was eke in marriage. 

All* he put not his wife in great assay: 

This world is not so strong, it *is no nay,* 

As it hath been in olde times yore; 

And hearken what this author saith, therefore; 

This story is said, < 14> not for that wives should 

Follow Griselda in humility. 

For it were importable* though they would; 

But for that every wight in his degree 

Shoulde be constant in adversity. 

As was Griselda; therefore Petrarch writeth 

This story, which with high style he inditeth. 

For, since a woman was so patient 
Unto a mortal man, well more we ought 
Receiven all in gree* that God us sent. 
*For great skill is he proved that he wrought:* 
But he tempteth no man that he hath bought. 
As saith Saint James, if ye his pistle read; 
He proveth folk all day, it is no dread.* 

And suffereth us, for our exercise. 
With sharp e scourges of adversity 
Full often to be beat in sundry wise; 
Not for to know our will, for certes he. 
Ere we were born, knew all our frailty; 
And for our best is all his governance; 
Let us then live in virtuous sufferance. 

But one word, lordings, hearken, ere I go: 
It were full hard to fmde now-a-days 
In all a town Griseldas three or two: 
For, if that they were put to such assays. 

^not to be denied* 

*not to be borne 

*seenote <15>* 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

The gold of them hath now so bad allays* 
With brass, that though the coin be fair *at eye,* 
It woulde rather break in two than ply* 

For which here, for the Wife's love of Bath, — 
Whose life and all her sex may God maintain 
In high mast'ry, and elles were it scath,* — 
I will, with lusty hearte fresh and green. 
Say you a song to gladden you, I ween: 
And let us stint of earnestful mattere. 
Hearken my song, that saith in this mannere. 

UEnvoy of Chaucer. 

"Griseld' is dead, and eke her patience. 
And both at once are buried in Itale: 
For which I cry in open audience. 
No wedded man so hardy be t' assail 
His wife's patience, in trust to fmd 
Griselda's, for in certain he shall fail. 

"O noble wives, full of high prudence. 

Let no humility your tongues nail: 

Nor let no clerk have cause or diligence 

To write of you a story of such marvail. 

As of Griselda patient and kind. 

Lest Chichevache< 16> you swallow in her entrail. 

*to see* 

*damage, pity 

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Imprinte well this lesson in your mind. 
For common profit, since it may avail. 

"Ye archiwives,* stand aye at defence, *wives of rank 

Since ye be strong as is a great camail,* *camel 

Nor suffer not that men do you offence. 

And slender wives, feeble in battail. 

Be eager as a tiger yond in Ind; 

Aye clapping as a mill, I you counsail. 

"Nor dread them not, nor do them reverence; 

For though thine husband armed be in mail. 

The arrows of thy crabbed eloquence 

Shall pierce his breast, and eke his aventail;<18> 

In jealousy I rede* eke thou him bind, *advise 

And thou shalt make him couch* as doth a quail. *submit, shrink 

"If thou be fair, where folk be in presence 

Shew thou thy visage and thine apparail: 

If thou be foul, be free of thy dispence; 

To get thee friendes aye do thy travail: 

Be aye of cheer as light as leaf on lind,* *linden, lime-tree 

And let him care, and weep, and wring, and wail." 

"Follow Echo, that holdeth no silence. 
But ever answereth at the countertail;* 
Be not bedaffed* for your innocence. 
But sharply take on you the governail;* 

*counter-tally <17> 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

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rjit4 lya/e. 

The Prologue. 

"Weeping and wailing, care and other sorrow, 

I have enough, on even and on morrow," 

Quoth the Merchant, "and so have other mo'. 

That wedded be; I trow* that it be so; *believe 

For well I wot it fareth so by me. 

I have a wife, the worste that may be. 

For though the fiend to her y-coupled were. 

She would him overmatch, I dare well swear. 

Why should I you rehearse in special 

Her high malice? she is *a shrew at all.* 

There is a long and large difference 

Betwixt Griselda's greate patience. 

And of my wife the passing cruelty. 

Were I unbounden, all so may I the,* 

I woulde never eft* come in the snare. 

We wedded men live in sorrow and care; 

Assay it whoso will, and he shall fmd 

That I say sooth, by Saint Thomas of Ind,<2> 

As for the more part; I say not all, — 

God shielde* that it shoulde so befall. *forbid 

Ah! good Sir Host, I have y-wedded be 

These moneths two, and more not, pardie; 

And yet I trow* that he that all his life *believe 

*thoroughly, in 
everything wicked* 


Wifeless hath been, though that men would him rive* 

Into the hearte, could in no mannere 

Telle so much sorrow, as I you here 

Could tellen of my wife's cursedness."* *wickedness 

"Now," quoth our Host, "Merchant, so God you bless. 
Since ye so muche knowen of that art. 
Full heartily I pray you tell us part." 
"Gladly," quoth he; "but of mine owen sore. 
For sorry heart, I telle may no more." 

The Tale. 

Whilom there was dwelling in Lombardy 
A worthy knight, that born was at Pavie, 
In which he liv'd in great prosperity; 
And forty years a wifeless man was he. 
And follow'd aye his bodily delight 
On women, where as was his appetite. 
As do these fooles that be seculeres.<2> 
And, when that he was passed sixty years. 
Were it for holiness, or for dotage, 
I cannot say, but such a great corage* 
Hadde this knight to be a wedded man. 
That day and night he did all that he can 
To espy where that he might wedded be; 
Praying our Lord to grante him, that he 
Mighte once knowen of that blissful life 
That is betwixt a husband and his wife. 
And for to live under that holy bond 
With which God firste man and woman bond. 
"None other life," said he, "is worth a bean; 
For wedlock is so easy, and so clean. 




Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

That in this world it is a paradise." 

Thus said this olde knight, that was so wise. 

And certainly, as sooth* as God is king. 

To take a wife it is a glorious thing. 

And namely* when a man is old and hoar. 

Then is a wife the fruit of his treasor; 

Then should he take a young wife and a fair. 

On which he might engender him an heir. 

And lead his life in joy and in solace;* 

Whereas these bachelors singen "Alas!" 

When that they fmd any adversity 

In love, which is but childish vanity. 

And truely it sits* well to be so. 

That bachelors have often pain and woe: 

On brittle ground they build, and brittleness 

They fmde when they *weene sickerness:* 

They live but as a bird or as a beast. 

In liberty, and under no arrest;* 

Whereas a wedded man in his estate 

Liveth a life blissful and ordinate. 

Under the yoke of marriage y-bound; 

Well may his heart in joy and bliss abound. 

For who can be so buxom* as a wife? 

Who is so true, and eke so attentive 

To keep* him, sick and whole, as is his make?** 

For weal or woe she will him not forsake: 

She is not weary him to love and serve. 

Though that he lie bedrid until he sterve.* 

And yet some clerkes say it is not so; 

Of which he, Theophrast, is one of tho:* 

*What force* though Theophrast list for to lie? 



^mirth, delight 

becomes, befits 

*think that there 
is security* 
check, control 


*care for **mate 


*what matter* 

"Take no wife," quoth he, <3> "for husbandry,* 
As for to spare in household thy dispence; 


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A true servant doth more diligence 

Thy good to keep, than doth thine owen wife. 

For she will claim a half part all her life. 

And if that thou be sick, so God me save. 

Thy very friendes, or a true knave,* *servant 

Will keep thee bet than she, that *waiteth aye *ahways waits to 

After thy good,* and hath done many a day." inherit your property* 

This sentence, and a hundred times worse, 

Writeth this man, there God his bones curse. 

But take no keep* of all such vanity, *notice 

Defy* Theophrast, and hearken to me. *distrust 

A wife is Godde's gifte verily; 

All other manner giftes hardily,* 

As handes, rentes, pasture, or commune,* 

Or mebles,* all be giftes of fortune. 

That passen as a shadow on the wall: 

But dread* thou not, if plainly speak I shall, 

A wife will last, and in thine house endure. 

Well longer than thee list, paraventure.* 

Marriage is a full great sacrament; 

He which that hath no wife, I hold him shent;* 

He liveth helpless, and all desolate 

(I speak of folk *in secular estate*): 

And hearken why, I say not this for nought, — 

That woman is for manne's help y-wrought. 

The highe God, when he had Adam maked. 

And saw him all alone belly naked, 

God of his greate goodness saide then. 

Let us now make a help unto this man 

Like to himself; and then he made him Eve. 

Here may ye see, and hereby may ye preve,* 

That a wife is man s help and his comfort. 

His paradise terrestre and his disport. 


*common land 
*furniture <4> 




*who are not 

of the clergy* 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

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So buxom* and so virtuous is she, 

They muste needes live in unity; 

One flesh they be, and one blood, as I guess. 

With but one heart in weal and in distress. 

A wife? Ah! Saint Mary, ben'dicite. 

How might a man have any adversity 

That hath a wife? certes I cannot say 

The bliss the which that is betwixt them tway. 

There may no tongue it tell, or hearte think. 

If he be poor, she helpeth him to swink;* 

She keeps his good, and wasteth never a deal;* 

All that her husband list, her liketh* well; 

She saith not ones Nay, when he saith Yea; 

"Do this," saith he; "All ready. Sir," saith she. 

O blissful order, wedlock precious! 

Thou art so merry, and eke so virtuous. 

And so commended and approved eke. 

That every man that holds him worth a leek 

Upon his bare knees ought all his life 

To thank his God, that him hath sent a wife; 

Or elles pray to God him for to send 

A wife, to last unto his life's end. 

For then his life is set in sickerness,* 

He may not be deceived, as I guess. 

So that he work after his wife's rede;* 

Then may he boldely bear up his head. 

They be so true, and therewithal so wise. 

For which, if thou wilt worken as the wise. 

Do alway so as women will thee rede. * 

Lo how that Jacob, as these clerkes read. 

By good counsel of his mother Rebecc' 

Bounde the kiddes skin about his neck; 

For which his father's benison* he wan. 

Lo Judith, as the story telle can. 

obedient, complying 






By good counsel she Godde's people kept. 

And slew him, Holofernes, while he slept. 

Lo Abigail, by good counsel, how she 

Saved her husband Nabal, when that he 

Should have been slain. And lo, Esther also 

By counsel good deliver'd out of woe 

The people of God, and made him, Mardoche, 

Of Assuere enhanced* for to be. *advanced in dignity 

There is nothing *in gree superlative* *of higher esteem* 

(As saith Senec) above a humble wife. 

Suffer thy wife's tongue, as Cato bit;* *bid 

She shall command, and thou shalt suffer it. 

And yet she will obey of courtesy. 

A wife is keeper of thine husbandry: 

Well may the sicke man bewail and weep. 

There as there is no wife the house to keep. 

I warne thee, if wisely thou wilt wirch,* *work 

Love well thy wife, as Christ loveth his church: 

Thou lov'st thyself, if thou lovest thy wife. 

No man hateth his flesh, but in his life 

He fost'reth it; and therefore bid I thee 

Cherish thy wife, or thou shalt never the.* *thrive 

Husband and wife, what *so men jape or play,* *although men joke 

Of worldly folk holde the sicker* way; and jeer* *certain 

They be so knit there may no harm betide. 

And namely* upon the wife's side. * especially 

For which this January, of whom I told. 

Consider 'd hath within his dayes old. 

The lusty life, the virtuous quiet. 

That is in marriage honey-sweet. 

And for his friends upon a day he sent 

To tell them the effect of his intent. 

With face sad,* his tale he hath them told: *grave, earnest 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

He saide, "Friendes, I am hoar and old, 
And almost (God wot) on my pitte's* brink, 
Upon my soule somewhat must I think. 
I have my body foolishly dispended. 
Blessed be God that it shall be amended; 
For I will be certain a wedded man. 
And that anon in all the haste I can. 
Unto some maiden, fair and tender of age; 
I pray you shape* for my marriage ' 

All suddenly, for I will not abide: 
And I will fond* to espy, on my side. 
To whom I maybe wedded hastily. 
But forasmuch as ye be more than. 
Ye shalle rather* such a thing espy 
Than I, and where me best were to ally. 
But one thing warn I you, my friendes dear, 
I will none old wife have in no mannere: 
She shall not passe sixteen year certain. 
Old fish and younge flesh would I have fain. 
Better," quoth he, "a pike than a pickerel,* 
And better than old beef is tender veal. 
I will no woman thirty year of age. 
It is but beanestraw and great forage. 
And eke these olde widows (God it wot) 
They conne* so much craft on Wade's boat,<5: 
*So muche brooke harm when that them lest,* 
That with them should I never live in rest. 
For sundry schooles make subtle clerkes; 
Woman of many schooles half a clerk is. 
But certainly a young thing men may guy* 
Right as men may warm wax with handes ply* 
Wherefore I say you plainly in a clause, 
I will none old wife have, right for this cause. 
For if so were I hadde such mischance. 

grave s 

arrange, contrive 


*young pike 

*they can do so much 
harm when they wish* 


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That I in her could have no pleasance. 

Then should I lead my life in avoutrie,* *adultery 

And go straight to the devil when I die. 

Nor children should I none upon her getten: 

Yet *were me lever* houndes had me eaten *I would rather* 

Than that mine heritage shoulde fall 

In strange hands: and this I tell you all. 

I doubte not I know the cause why 

Men shoulde wed: and farthermore know I 

There speaketh many a man of marriage 

That knows no more of it than doth my page. 

For what causes a man should take a wife. 

If he ne may not live chaste his life. 

Take him a wife with great devotion. 

Because of lawful procreation 

Of children, to th' honour of God above. 

And not only for paramour or love; 

And for they shoulde lechery eschew. 

And yield their debte when that it is due: 

Or for that each of them should help the other 

In mischief,* as a sister shall the brother, *trouble 

And live in chastity full holily 

But, Sires, by your leave, that am not I, 

For, God be thanked, I dare make avaunt,* *boast 

I feel my limbes stark* and suffisant *strong 

To do all that a man belongeth to: 

I wot myselfe best what I may do. 

Though I be hoar, I fare as doth a tree. 

That blossoms ere the fruit y-waxen* be; *grown 

The blossomy tree is neither dry nor dead; 

I feel me now here hoar but on my head. 

Mine heart and all my limbes are as green 

As laurel through the year is for to seen.* *see 

And, since that ye have heard all mine intent. 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

I pray you to my will ye would assent." 

Diverse men diversely him told 

Of marriage many examples old; 

Some blamed it, some praised it, certain; 

But at the haste, shortly for to sayn 

(As all day* falleth altercation *constantly, every day 

Betwixte friends in disputation). 

There fell a strife betwixt his brethren two. 

Of which that one was called Placebo, 

Justinus soothly called was that other. 

Placebo said; "O January, brother. 

Full little need have ye, my lord so dear. 

Counsel to ask of any that is here: 

But that ye be so full of sapience. 

That you not liketh, for your high prudence. 

To waive* from the word of Solomon. 

This word said he unto us every one; 

Work alle thing by counsel, — thus said he, — 

And thenne shalt thou not repente thee 

But though that Solomon spake such a word. 

Mine owen deare brother and my lord. 

So wisly* God my soule bring at rest, 

I hold your owen counsel is the best. 

For, brother mine, take of me this motive; * 

I have now been a court-man all my life. 

And, God it wot, though I unworthy be, 

I have standen in full great degree 

Aboute lordes of full high estate; 

Yet had I ne'er with none of them debate; 

I never them contraried truely 

I know well that my lord can* more than I; 

What that he saith I hold it firm and stable, 

*depart, deviate 

*advice, encouragement 


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I say the same, or else a thing semblable. 

A full great fool is any counsellor 

That serveth any lord of high honour 

That dare presume, or ones thinken it; 

That his counsel should pass his lorde's wit. 

Nay, lordes be no fooles by my fay. 

Ye have yourselfe shewed here to day 

So high sentence,* so holily and well 

That I consent, and confirm *every deal* 

Your wordes all, and your opinioun 

By God, there is no man in all this town 

Nor in Itale, could better have y-said. 

Christ holds him of this counsel well apaid.* 

And truely it is a high courage 

Of any man that stopen* is in age. 

To take a young wife, by my father's kin; 

Your hearte hangeth on a jolly pin. 

Do now in this matter right as you lest. 

For finally I hold it for the best." 


*judgment, sentiment 
*in every point* 


*advanced <6> 

Justinus, that aye stille sat and heard. 

Right in this wise to Placebo answer 'd. 

"Now, brother mine, be patient I pray. 

Since ye have said, and hearken what I say. 

Senec, among his other wordes wise, 

Saith, that a man ought him right well advise,* 

To whom he gives his hand or his chattel. 

And since I ought advise me right well 

To whom I give my good away from me. 

Well more I ought advise me, pardie. 

To whom I give my body: for alway 

I warn you well it is no childe's play 

To take a wife without advisement. 

Men must inquire (this is mine assent) 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Whe'er she be wise, or sober, or dronkelew,* *given to drink 

Or proud, or any other ways a shrew, 

A chidester,* or a waster of thy good, *a scold 

Or rich or poor; or else a man is wood.* *mad 

Albeit so, that no man fmde shall 

None in this world, that *trotteth whole in all,* *is sound in 

No man, nor beast, such as men can devise,* every point* *describe 

But nathehess it ought enough suffice 

With any wife, if so were that she had 

More goode thewes* than her vices bad: * qualities 

And all this asketh leisure to inquere. 

For, God it wot, I have wept many a tear 

Full privily, since I have had a wife. 

Praise whoso will a wedded manne's life, 

Certes, I fmd in it but cost and care. 

And observances of all blisses bare. 

And yet, God wot, my neighebours about. 

And namely* of women many a rout,** *especially **company 

Say that I have the moste steadfast wife. 

And eke the meekest one, that beareth life. 

But I know best where wringeth* me my shoe, *pinches 

Ye may for me right as you like do 

Advise you, ye be a man of age. 

How that ye enter into marriage; 

And namely* with a young wife and a fair, * especially 

By him that made water, fire, earth, air. 

The youngest man that is in all this rout* *company 

Is busy enough to bringen it about 

To have his wife alone, truste me: 

Ye shall not please her fully yeares three. 

This is to say, to do her full pleasance. 

A wife asketh full many an observance. 

I pray you that ye be not *evil apaid."* *displeased* 

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"Well," quoth this January, "and hast thou said? 

Straw for thy Senec, and for thy proverbs, 

I counte not a pannier full of herbs 

Of schoole termes; wiser men than thou. 

As thou hast heard, assented here right now 

To my purpose: Placebo, what say ye?" 

"I say it is a cursed* man," quoth he, *ill-natured, wicked 

"That letteth* matrimony, sickerly." *hindereth 

And with that word they rise up suddenly. 

And be assented fully, that he should 

Be wedded when him list, and where he would. 


High fantasy and curious business 

From day to day gan in the soul impress* 

Of January about his marriage 

Many a fair shape, and many a fair visage 

There passed through his hearte night by night. 

As whoso took a mirror polish'd bright. 

And set it in a common market-place. 

Then should he see many a figure pace 

By his mirror; and in the same wise 

Gan January in his thought devise 

Of maidens, which that dwelte him beside: 

He wiste not where that he might abide.* 

For if that one had beauty in her face. 

Another stood so in the people's grace 

For her sadness* and her benignity. 

That of the people greatest voice had she: 

And some were rich and had a badde name. 

But natheless, betwixt earnest and game. 

He at the last appointed him on one. 

And let all others from his hearte gon. 

And chose her of his own authority; 

For love is blind all day, and may not see. 

*imprint themselves 

^stay, fix his choice 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And when that he was into bed y-brought, 
He pourtray'd in his heart and in his thought 
Her freshe beauty, and her age tender, 
Her middle small, her armes long and slender. 
Her wise governance, her gentleness. 
Her womanly bearing, and her sadness.* 
And when that he *on her was condescended,* 
He thought his choice might not be amended; 
For when that he himself concluded had. 
He thought each other manne' s wit so bad. 
That impossible it were to reply 
Against his choice; this was his fantasy. 
His friendes sent he to, at his instance. 
And prayed them to do him that pleasance. 
That hastily they would unto him come; 
He would abridge their labour all and some: 
Needed no more for them to go nor ride,<7> 
*He was appointed where he would abide.* 

*had selected her* 

*he had defmitively 

Placebo came, and eke his friendes soon, made his choice* 

And *alderfirst he bade them all a boon,* *first of all he asked 

That none of them no arguments would make a favour of them* 

Against the purpose that he had y-take: 

Which purpose was pleasant to God, said he. 

And very ground of his prosperity. 

He said, there was a maiden in the town. 

Which that of beauty hadde great renown; 

All* were it so she were of small degree, *although 

Sufficed him her youth and her beauty; 

Which maid, he said, he would have to his wife. 

To lead in ease and holiness his life; 

And thanked God, that he might have her all. 

That no wight with his blisse parte* shall; *have a share 

And prayed them to labour in this need. 

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And shape that he faile not to speed: 

For then, he said, his spirit was at ease. 

"Then is," quoth he, "nothing may me displease. 

Save one thing pricketh in my conscience. 

The which I will rehearse in your presence. 

I have," quoth he, "heard said, full yore* ago, *long 

There may no man have perfect blisses two. 

This is to say, on earth and eke in heaven. 

For though he keep him from the sinne's seven. 

And eke from every branch of thilke tree,<8> 

Yet is there so perfect felicity. 

And so great *ease and lust,* in marriage, *comfort and pleasure* 

That ev'r I am aghast,* now in mine age *ashamed, afraid 

That I shall head now so merry a life. 

So delicate, withoute woe or strife. 

That I shall have mine heav'n on earthe here. 

For since that very heav'n is bought so dear. 

With tribulation and great penance. 

How should I then, living in such pleasance 

As alle wedded men do with their wives. 

Come to the bliss where Christ *etern on live is?* *lives eternally* 

This is my dread;* and ye, my brethren tway, *doubt 

Assoile* me this question, I you pray." *resolve, answer 


Justinus, which that hated his folly. 
Answer 'd anon right in his japery;* 
And, for he would his longe tale abridge. 
He woulde no authority* allege. 
But saide; "Sir, so there be none obstacle 
Other than this, God of his high miracle. 
And of his mercy, may so for you wirch,* 
That, ere ye have your rights of holy church. 
Ye may repent of wedded manne's life. 
In which ye say there is no woe nor strife: 

*mockery, jesting way 

written texts 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And elles God forbid, *but iP he sent 
A wedded man his grace him to repent 
Well often, rather than a single man. 
And therefore. Sir, *the beste rede I can,* 


*this is the best counsel 

Despair you not, but have in your memory, 

Paraventure she maybe your purgatory; 

She maybe Godde's means, and Godde's whip; 

And then your soul shall up to heaven skip 

Swifter than doth an arrow from a bow 

I hope to God hereafter ye shall know 

That there is none so great felicity 

In marriage, nor ever more shall be. 

That you shall let* of your salvation; 

So that ye use, as skill is and reason. 

The lustes* of your wife attemperly,** 

And that ye please her not too amorously. 

And that ye keep you eke from other sin. 

My tale is done, for my wit is but thin. 

Be not aghast* hereof, my brother dear. 

But let us waden out of this mattere. 

The Wife of Bath, if ye have understand. 

Of marriage, which ye have now in hand. 

Declared hath full well in little space; 

Fare ye now well, God have you in his grace, 

that I know* 


pleasures **moderately 

*aharmed, afraid 

And with this word this Justin' and his brother 
Have ta'en their leave, and each of them of other. 
And when they saw that it must needes be. 
They wroughte so, by sleight and wise treaty. 
That she, this maiden, which that *Maius hight,* 
As hastily as ever that she might. 
Shall wedded be unto this January. 
I trow it were too longe you to tarry. 
If I told you of every *script and band* 

*was named May* 

'written bond* 

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By which she was feoffed in his hand; 

Or for to reckon of her rich array 

But fmally y-comen is the day 

That to the churche bothe be they went. 

For to receive the holy sacrament. 

Forth came the priest, with stole about his neck. 

And bade her be like Sarah and Rebecc' 

In wisdom and in truth of marriage; 

And said his orisons, as is usage. 

And crouched* them, and prayed God should them bless, *crossed 

And made all sicker* enough with holiness. *certain 

Thus be they wedded with solemnity; 

And at the feaste sat both he and she. 

With other worthy folk, upon the dais. 

All full of joy and bliss is the palace. 

And full of instruments, and of vitaille, * 

The moste dainteous* of all Itale. 

Before them stood such instruments of soun'. 

That Orpheus, nor of Thebes Amphioun, 

Ne made never such a melody. 

At every course came in loud minstrelsy. 

That never Joab trumped for to hear. 

Nor he,Theodomas, yet half so clear 

At Thebes, when the city was in doubt. 

Bacchus the wine them skinked* all about. 

And Venus laughed upon every wight 

(For January was become her knight. 

And woulde both assaye his courage 

In liberty, and eke in marriage). 

And with her firebrand in her hand about 

Danced before the bride and all the rout. 

And certainly I dare right well say this, 

Hymeneus, that god of wedding is. 

*victuals, food 

*poured <9> 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

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Saw never his life so merry a wedded man. 

Hold thou thy peace, thou poet Marcian,< 10> 

That writest us that ilke* wedding merry *same 

Of her Philology and him Mercury, 

And of the songes that the Muses sung; 

Too small is both thy pen, and eke thy tongue 

For to describen of this marriage. 

When tender youth hath wedded stooping age. 

There is such mirth that it may not be writ; 

Assay it youreself, then may ye wit* *know 

If that I lie or no in this mattere. 

Maius, that sat with so benign a cheer,* *countenance 

Her to behold it seemed faerie; 

Queen Esther never look'd with such an eye 

On Assuere, so meek a look had she; 

I may you not devise all her beauty; 

But thus much of her beauty tell I may. 

That she was hike the bright morrow of May 

Full filled of all beauty and pleasance. 

This January is ravish'd in a trance. 

At every time he looked in her face; 

But in his heart he gan her to menace. 

That he that night in armes would her strain 

Harder than ever Paris did Helene. 

But natheless yet had he great pity 

That thilke night offende her must he. 

And thought, "Alas, O tender creature. 

Now woulde God ye mighte well endure 

All my courage, it is so sharp and keen; 

I am aghast* ye shall it not sustene. *afraid 

But God forbid that I did all my might. 

Now woulde God that it were waxen night. 

And that the night would lasten evermo'. 

I would that all this people were y-go."* 

And fmally he did all his labour. 

As he best mighte, saving his honour. 

To haste them from the meat in subtle wise. 

The time came that reason was to rise; 

And after that men dance, and drinke fast. 

And spices all about the house they cast. 

And full of joy and bliss is every man. 

All but a squire, that highte Damian, 

Who carv'd before the knight full many a day; 

He was so ravish'd on his lady May, 

That for the very pain he was nigh wood;* 

Almost he swelt* and swooned where he stood. 

So sore had Venus hurt him with her brand. 

As that she bare it dancing in her hand. 

And to his bed he went him hastily; 

No more of him as at this time speak I; 

But there I let him weep enough and plain,* 

Till freshe May will rue upon his pain. 

O perilous fire, that in the bedstrawbreedeth! 

O foe familiar,* that his service bedeth!** 

O servant traitor, O false homely hewe,* 

Like to the adder in bosom shy untrue, 

God shield us alle from your acquaintance! 

O January, drunken in pleasance 

Of marriage, see how thy Damian, 

Thine owen squier and thy boren* man, 

Intendeth for to do thee villainy:* 

God grante thee thine *homehy foe* t' espy. 

For in this world is no worse pestilence 

Than homely foe, all day in thy presence. 

Performed hath the sun his arc diurn,* 

gone away 



domestic < 1 1 > **offers 
*servant <12> 

dishonour, outrage 
*enemy in the household* 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

*pleasant company* 



No longer may the body of him sojourn 

On the horizon, in that latitude: 

Night with his mantle, that is dark and rude, 

Gan overspread the hemisphere about: 

For which departed is this *lusty rout* 

From January, with thank on every side. 

Home to their houses lustily they ride. 

Where as they do their thinges as them lest. 

And when they see their time they go to rest. 

Soon after that this hasty* January 

Will go to bed, he will no longer tarry. 

He dranke hippocras, clarre, and vernage <14> 

Of spices hot, to increase his courage; 

And many a lectuary* had he full fme. 

Such as the cursed monk Dan Constantine<15> 

Hath written in his book *de Coitu;* *of sexual intercourse* 

To eat them all he would nothing eschew: 

And to his privy friendes thus said he: 

"For Godde's love, as soon as it may be. 

Let *voiden all* this house in courteous wise." *everyone leave* 

And they have done right as he will devise. 

Men drinken, and the travers* draw anon; *curtains 

The bride is brought to bed as still as stone; 

And when the bed was with the priest y-bless'd. 

Out of the chamber every wight him dress'd. 

And January hath fast in arms y-take 

His freshe May, his paradise, his make.* *mate 

He lulled her, he kissed her full oft; 

With thicke bristles of his beard unsoft. 

Like to the skin of houndfish,* sharp as brere** *dogfish **briar 

(For he was shav'n all new in his mannere). 

He rubbed her upon her tender face. 

And saide thus; "Alas! I must trespace 

To you, my spouse, and you greatly offend. 

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Ere time come that I will down descend. 
But natheless consider this," quoth he, 
"There is no workman, whatsoe'er he be. 
That may both worke well and hastily: 
This will be done at leisure perfectly. 
It is *no force* how longe that we play; 
In true wedlock coupled be we tway; 
And blessed be the yoke that we be in. 
For in our actes may there be no sin. 
A man may do no sinne with his wife. 
Nor hurt himselfe with his owen knife; 
For we have leave to play us by the law." 


"no matter" 

Thus labour 'd he, till that the day gan daw. 

And then he took a sop in fme clarre. 

And upright in his bedde then sat he. 

And after that he sang full loud and clear. 

And kiss'd his wife, and made wanton cheer. 

He was all coltish, full of ragerie * 

And full of jargon as a flecked pie.<16> 

The slacke skin about his necke shaked. 

While that he sang, so chanted he and craked.* 

But God wot what that May thought in her heart. 

When she him saw up sitting in his shirt 

In his night-cap, and with his necke lean: 

She praised not his playing worth a bean. 

Then said he thus; "My reste will I take 

Now day is come, I may no longer wake; 

And down he laid his head and slept till prime. 

And afterward, when that he saw his time. 

Up rose January, but freshe May 

Helde her chamber till the fourthe day. 

As usage is of wives for the best. 

For every labour some time must have rest. 




Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Or elles longe may he not endure; 

This is to say, no life of creature, 

Be it offish, or bird, or beast, or man. 

Now will I speak of woeful Damian, 

That languisheth for love, as ye shall hear; 

Therefore I speak to him in this manneare. 

I say "O silly Damian, alas! 

Answer to this demand, as in this case. 

How shalt thou to thy lady, freshe May, 

Telle thy woe? She will alway say nay; 

Eke if thou speak, she will thy woe bewray; * 

God be thine help, I can no better say 

This sicke Damian in Venus' fire 

So burned that he died for desire; 

For which he put his life *in aventure,* 

No longer might he in this wise endure; 

But privily a penner* gan he borrow. 

And in a letter wrote he all his sorrow. 

In manner of a complaint or a lay. 

Unto his faire freshe lady May 

And in a purse of silk, hung on his shirt. 

He hath it put, and laid it at his heart. 

The moone, that at noon was thilke* day 

That January had wedded freshe May, 

In ten of Taure, was into Cancer glided; < 17> 

So long had Maius in her chamber abided. 

As custom is unto these nobles all. 

A bride shall not eaten in the ball 

Till dayes four, or three days at the least, 

Y-passed be; then let her go to feast. 

The fourthe day complete from noon to noon. 

When that the highe masse was y-done. 


*at risk* 


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In halle sat this January, and May, 
As fresh as is the brighte summer's day. 
And so befell, how that this goode man 
Remember'd him upon this Damian. 
And saide; "Saint Mary, how may this be. 
That Damian attendeth not to me? 
Is he aye sick? or how may this betide?" 
His squiers, which that stoode there beside. 
Excused him, because of his sickness. 
Which letted* him to do his business: 
None other cause mighte make him tarry. 
"That me forthinketh,"* quoth this January 
"He is a gentle squier, by my truth; 
If that he died, it were great harm and ruth. 
He is as wise, as discreet, and secre',* 
As any man I know of his degree. 
And thereto manly and eke serviceble. 
And for to be a thrifty man right able. 
But after meat, as soon as ever I may 
I will myself visit him, and eke May, 
To do him all the comfort that I can." 
And for that word him blessed every man. 
That of his bounty and his gentleness 
He woulde so comforten in sickness 
His squier, for it was a gentle deed. 



*grieves, causes 

*secret, trusty 

"Dame," quoth this January, "take good heed. 
At after meat, ye with your women all 
(When that ye be in chamb'r out of this hall). 
That all ye go to see this Damian: 
Do him disport, he is a gentle man; 
And telle him that I will him visite, 
*Have I nothing but rested me a lite:* 
And speed you faste, for I will abide 

when only I have rested 
me a little* 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

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Till that ye sleepe faste by my side." 

And with that word he gan unto him call 

A squier, that was marshal of his hall, 

And told him certain thinges that he wold. 

This freshe May hath straight her way y-hold, 

With all her women, unto Damian. 

Down by his beddes side sat she than,* *then 

Comforting him as goodly as she may. 

This Damian, when that his time he say,* *saw 

In secret wise his purse, and eke his bill. 

In which that he y-written had his will. 

Hath put into her hand withoute more. 

Save that he sighed wondrous deep and sore. 

And softely to her right thus said he: 

"Mercy, and that ye not discover me: 

For I am dead if that this thing be kid."* *discovered < 1 8 > 

The purse hath she in her bosom hid. 

And went her way; ye get no more of me; 

But unto January come is she. 

That on his beddes side sat full soft. 

He took her, and he kissed her full oft. 

And laid him down to sleep, and that anon. 

She feigned her as that she muste gon 

There as ye know that every wight must need; 

And when she of this bill had taken heed. 

She rent it all to cloutes* at the last, *fragments 

And in the privy softely it cast. 

Who studieth* now but faire freshe May? *is thoughtful 

Ad own by olde January she lay. 

That slepte, till the cough had him awaked: 

Anon he pray'd her strippe her all naked. 

He would of her, he said, have some pleasance; 

And said her clothes did him incumbrance. 

And she obey'd him, be her *lefe or loth.* *willing or unwilling* 

But, lest that precious* folk be with me wroth. 
How that he wrought I dare not to you tell. 
Or whether she thought it paradise or hell; 
But there I let them worken in their wise 
Till evensong ring, and they must arise. 

*over-nice <19> 

' chance 

*let him judge* 

Were it by destiny, or aventure,* 

Were it by influence, or by nature. 

Or constellation, that in such estate 

The heaven stood at that time fortunate 

As for to put a bill of Venus' works 

(For alle thing hath time, as say these clerks). 

To any woman for to get her love, 

I cannot say; but greate God above. 

That knoweth that none act is causeless, 

*He deem* of all, for I will hold my peace. 

But sooth is this, how that this freshe May 

Hath taken such impression that day 

Of pity on this sicke Damian, 

That from her hearte she not drive can 

The remembrance for *to do him ease.* 

"Certain," thought she, "whom that this thing displease his desire^ 

I recke not, for here I him assure. 

To love him best of any creature. 

Though he no more haddee than his shirt." 

Lo, pity runneth soon in gentle heart. 

Here may ye see, how excellent franchise* 

In women is when they them *narrow advise.* 

Some tyrant is, — as there be many a one, — 

That hath a heart as hard as any stone. 

Which would have let him sterven* in the place 

Well rather than have granted him her grace; 

And then rejoicen in her cruel pride. 

And reckon not to be a homicide. 

*to satisfy 

closely consider* 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

This gentle May, full filled of pity, 

Right of her hand a letter maked she. 

In which she granted him her very grace; 

There lacked nought, but only day and place. 

Where that she might unto his lust suffice: 

For it shall be right as he will devise. 

And when she saw her time upon a day 

To visit this Damian went this May, 

And subtilly this letter down she thrust 

Under his pillow, read it if him lust.* *pleased 

She took him by the hand, and hard him twist 

So secretly, that no wight of it wist. 

And bade him be all whole; and forth she went 

To January, when he for her sent. 

Up rose Damian the nexte morrow. 

All passed was his sickness and his sorrow. 

He combed him, he proined <20> him and picked. 

He did all that unto his lady liked; 

And eke to January he went as low 

As ever did a dogge for the bow.<21> 

He is so pleasant unto every man 

(For craft is all, whoso that do it can). 

Every wight is fain to speak him good; 

And fully in his lady's grace he stood. 

Thus leave I Damian about his need. 

And in my tale forth I will proceed. 

Some clerke* holde that felicity *writers, scholars 

Stands in delight; and therefore certain he. 

This noble January, with all his might 

In honest wise as longeth* to a knight, *belongeth 

Shope* him to live full deliciously: *prepared, arranged 

His housing, his array, as honestly* *honourably, suitably 

To his degree was maked as a king's. 

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Amonges other of his honest things 

He had a garden walled all with stone; 

So fair a garden wot I nowhere none. 

For out of doubt I verily suppose 

That he that wrote the Romance of the Rose <22> 

Could not of it the beauty well devise;* *describe 

Nor Priapus <23> mighte not well suffice. 

Though he be god of gardens, for to tell 

The beauty of the garden, and the well* *fountain 

That stood under a laurel always green. 

Full often time he, Pluto, and his queen 

Proserpina, and all their faerie. 

Disported them and made melody 

About that well, and danced, as men told. 

This noble knight, this January old 

Such dainty* had in it to walk and play, *pleasure 

That he would suffer no wight to bear the key. 

Save he himself, for of the small wicket 

He bare always of silver a cliket,* *key 

With which, when that him list, he it unshet.* *opened 

And when that he would pay his wife's debt. 

In summer season, thither would he go. 

And May his wife, and no wight but they two; 

And thinges which that were not done in bed. 

He in the garden them perform'd and sped. 

And in this wise many a merry day 

Lived this January and fresh May, 

But worldly joy may not always endure 

To January, nor to no creatucere. 

O sudden hap! O thou fortune unstable! 

Like to the scorpion so deceivable,* *deceitful 

That fhatt'rest with thy head when thou wilt sting; 

Thy tail is death, through thine envenoming. 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

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O brittle joy! O sweete poison quaint!* *strange 

O monster, that so subtilly canst paint 

Thy giftes, under hue of steadfastness, 

That thou deceivest bothe *more and less!* *great and small* 

Why hast thou January thus deceiv'd. 

That haddest him for thy full friend receiv'd? 

And now thou hast bereft him both his eyen. 

For sorrow of which desireth he to dien. 

Alas! this noble January free. 

Amid his lust* and his prosperity *pleasure 

Is waxen blind, and that all suddenly 

He weeped and he wailed piteously; 

And therewithal the fire of jealousy 

(Lest that his wife should fall in some folly) 

So burnt his hearte, that he woulde fain. 

That some man bothe him and her had slain; 

For neither after his death, nor in his life, 

Ne would he that she were no love nor wife. 

But ever live as widow in clothes black. 

Sole as the turtle that hath lost her make.* *mate 

But at the last, after a month or tway 

His sorrow gan assuage, soothe to say 

For, when he wist it might none other be. 

He patiently took his adversity: 

Save out of doubte he may not foregon 

That he was jealous evermore-in-one:* *continually 

Which jealousy was so outrageous. 

That neither in hall, nor in none other house. 

Nor in none other place never the mo' 

He woulde suffer her to ride or go, 

*But iP that he had hand on her alway *unless 

For which full often wepte freshe May, 

That loved Damian so burningly 

That she must either dien suddenly, 

Or elles she must have him as her lest:* 
She waited* when her hearte woulde brest.** 
Upon that other side Damian 
Becomen is the sorrowfullest man 
That ever was; for neither night nor day 
He mighte speak a word to freshe May, 
As to his purpose, of no such mattere, 
*But if that January must it hear. 
That had a hand upon her evermo'. 
But natheless, by writing to and fro. 
And privy signes, wist he what she meant. 
And she knew eke the fme* of his intent. 

O January, what might it thee avail. 

Though thou might see as far as shippes sail? 

For as good is it blind deceiv'd to be. 

As be deceived when a man may see. 

Lo, Argus, which that had a hundred eyen, <24 

For all that ever he could pore or pryen. 

Yet was he blent;* and, God wot, so be mo'. 

That *weene wisly* that it be not so: 

Pass over is an ease, I say no more. 

This freshe May, of which I spake yore,* 

In warm wax hath *imprinted the cliket* 

That January bare of the small wicket 

By which into his garden oft he went; 

And Damian, that knew all her intent. 

The cliket counterfeited privily; 

There is no more to say, but hastily 

Some wonder by this cliket shall betide. 

Which ye shall hearen, if ye will abide. 

O noble Ovid, sooth say'st thou, God wot. 
What sleight is it, if love be long and hot. 

*expected **burst 


*end, aim 

think confidently* 


*taken an impression 

of the key* 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

That he'll not find it out in some mannere? 

By Pyramus and Thisbe may men lear;* *learn 

Though they were kept full long and strait o'er all, 

They be accorded,* rowning** through a wall, *agreed **whispering 

Where no wight could have found out such a sleight. 

But now to purpose; ere that dayes eight 

Were passed of the month of July, fill* *it befell 

That January caught so great a will. 

Through egging* of his wife, him for to play *inciting 

In his garden, and no wight but they tway. 

That in a morning to this May said he: <2S> 

"Rise up, my wife, my love, my lady free; 

The turtle's voice is heard, mine owen sweet; 

The winter is gone, with all his raines weet.* *wet 

Come forth now with thine *eyen columbine* *eyes like the doves* 

Well fairer be thy breasts than any wine. 

The garden is enclosed all about; 

Come forth, my white spouse; for, out of doubt. 

Thou hast me wounded in mine heart, O wife: 

No spot in thee was e'er in all thy life. 

Come forth, and let us taken our disport; 

I choose thee for my wife and my comfort." 

Such olde lewed* wordes used he. *foolish, ignorant 

On Damian a signe made she. 

That he should go before with his cliket. 

This Damian then hath opened the wicket. 

And in he start, and that in such mannere 

That no wight might him either see or hear; 

And still he sat under a bush. Anon 

This January, as blind as is a stone. 

With Maius in his hand, and no wight mo'. 

Into this freshe garden is y-go. 

And clapped to the wicket suddenly. 

"Now, wife," quoth he, "here is but thou and I; 

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Thou art the creature that I beste love: 

For, by that Lord that sits in heav'n above. 

Lever* I had to dien on a knife, *rather 

Than thee offende, deare true wife. 

For Godde's sake, think how I thee chees,* *chose 

Not for no covetise* doubteless, * covetousness 

But only for the love I had to thee. 

And though that I be old, and may not see. 

Be to me true, and I will tell you why. 

Certes three thinges shall ye win thereby: 

First, love of Christ, and to yourself honour. 

And all mine heritage, town and tow'r. 

I give it you, make charters as you lest; 

This shall be done to-morrow ere sun rest. 

So wisly* God my soule bring to bliss! *surely 

I pray you, on this covenant me kiss. 

And though that I be jealous, wite* me not; *blame 

Ye be so deep imprinted in my thought. 

That when that I consider your beauty. 

And therewithal *th'unlikely eld* of me, *dissimilar age* 

I may not, certes, though I shoulde die. 

Forbear to be out of your company. 

For very love; this is withoute doubt: 

Now kiss me, wife, and let us roam about." 


This freshe May, when she these wordes heard, 
Benignely to January answer'd; 
But first and forward she began to weep: 
"I have," quoth she, "a soule for to keep 
As well as ye, and also mine honour. 
And of my wifehood thilke* tender flow'r 
Which that I have assured in your bond. 
When that the priest to you my body bond: 
Wherefore I will answer in this mannere. 

*that same 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

With leave of you mine owen lord so dear. 
I pray to God, that never dawn the day 
That I *no sterve,* as foul as woman may, 
If e'er I do unto my kin that shame. 
Or elles I impaire so my name. 
That I bee false; and if I do that lack. 
Do strippe me, and put me in a sack. 
And in the nexte river do me drench:* 
I am a gentle woman, and no wench. 
Why speak ye thus? but men be e'er untrue. 
And women have reproof of you aye new. 
Ye know none other dalliance, I believe. 
But speak to us of untrust and repreve."* 

And with that word she saw where Damian 
Sat in the bush, and coughe she began; 
And with her fmger signe made she. 
That Damian should climb upon a tree 
That charged was with fruit; and up he went: 
For verily he knew all her intent. 
And every signe that she coulde make. 
Better than January her own make.* 
For in a letter she had told him all 
Of this matter, how that he worke shall. 
And thus I leave him sitting in the perry,* 
And January and May roaming full merry. 

Bright was the day, and blue the firmament; 

Phoebus of gold his streames down had sent 

To gladden every flow'r with his warmness; 

He was that time in Geminis, I guess. 

But little from his declination 

Of Cancer, Jove's exaltation. 

And so befell, in that bright morning-tide. 

*do not die* 





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That in the garden, on the farther side, 

Pluto, that is the king of Faerie, 

And many a lady in his company 

Following his wife, the queen Proserpina, — 

Which that he ravished out of Ethna,<26> 

While that she gather 'd flowers in the mead 

(In Claudian ye may the story read. 

How in his grisly chariot he her fet*), — *fetched 

This king of Faerie ad own him set 

Upon a bank of turfes fresh and green. 

And right anon thus said he to his queen. 

"My wife," quoth he, "there may no wight say nay, — 

Experience so proves it every day, — 

The treason which that woman doth to man. 

Ten hundred thousand stories tell I can 

Notable of your untruth and brittleness * *inconstancy 

O Solomon, richest of all ri chess. 

Full fill'd of sapience and worldly glory. 

Full worthy be thy wordes of memory 

To every wight that wit and reason can. * *knows 

Thus praised he yet the bounte* of man: *goodness 

Among a thousand men yet found I one. 

But of all women found I never none.' <27> 

Thus said this king, that knew your wickedness; 

And Jesus, Filius Sirach, <28> as I guess. 

He spake of you but seldom reverence. 

A wilde fire and corrupt pestilence 

So fall upon your bodies yet to-night! 

Ne see ye not this honourable knight? 

Because, alas! that he is blind and old. 

His owen man shall make him cuckold. 

Lo, where he sits, the lechour, in the tree. 

Now will I granten, of my majesty. 

Unto this olde blinde worthy knight. 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

That he shall have again his eyen sight, 
When that his wife will do him villainy; 
Then shall be knowen all her harlotry, 
Both in reproof of her and other mo'." 
"Yea, Sir," quoth Proserpine," and will ye so? 
Now by my mother Ceres' soul I swear 
That I shall give her suffisant answer. 
And alle women after, for her sake; 
That though they be in any guilt y-take. 
With face bold they shall themselves excuse. 
And bear them down that woulde them accuse. 
For lack of answer, none of them shall dien. 

All* had ye seen a thing with both your eyen. 
Yet shall *we visage it* so hardily. 
And weep, and swear, and chide subtilly. 
That ye shall be as lewed* as be geese. 
What recketh me of your authorities? 
I wot well that this Jew, this Solomon, 
Found of us women fooles many one: 
But though that he founde no good woman. 
Yet there hath found many another man 
Women full good, and true, and virtuous; 
Witness on them that dwelt in Christes house; 
With martyrdom they proved their Constance. 
The Roman gestes <29> make remembrance 
Of many a very true wife also. 
But, Sire, be not wroth, albeit so. 
Though that he said he found no good woman, 
I pray you take the sentence* of the man: 
He meant thus, that in *sovereign bounte* 
Is none but God, no, neither *he nor she.* 
Hey, for the very God that is but one. 
Why make ye so much of Solomon? 


''confront it* 

gnorant, confounded 

*opinion, real meaning 
*perfect goodness 
*man nor woman* 

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What though he made a temple, Godde's house? 

What though he were rich and glorious? 

So made he eke a temple of false goddes; 

How might he do a thing that more forbode* is? *forbidden 

Pardie, as fair as ye his name emplaster,* *plaster over, "whitewash" 

He was a lechour, and an idolaster,* 

And in his eld he very* God forsook. 

And if that God had not (as saith the book) 

Spared him for his father's sake, he should 

Have lost his regne* rather** than he would. 

I *sette not oP all the villainy 

That he of women wrote, a butterfly. 

I am a woman, needes must I speak. 

Or elles swell until mine hearte break. 

For since he said that we be jangleresses,* 

As ever may I brooke* whole my tresses, 

I shall not spare for no courtesy 

To speak him harm, that said us villainy." 

"Dame," quoth this Pluto, "be no longer wroth; 

I give it up: but, since I swore mine oath 

That I would grant to him his sight again. 

My word shall stand, that warn I you certain: 

*the true 

*kingdom **sooner 
*value not* 


I am a king; it sits* me not to lie." 
"And I," quoth she, "am queen of Faerie. 
Her answer she shall have, I undertake. 
Let us no more wordes of it make. 
Forsooth, I will no longer you contrary." 

*becomes, befits 

Now let us turn again to January, 
That in the garden with his faire May 
Singeth well merrier than the popinjay:* 
"You love I best, and shall, and other none." 
So long about the alleys is he gone. 
Till he was come to *that ilke perry,* 


*the same pear-tree* 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Where as this Damian satte full merry 

On high, among the freshe leaves green. 

This freshe May, that is so bright and sheen, 

Gan for to sigh, and said, "Alas my side! 

Now, Sir," quoth she, "for aught that may betide, 

I must have of the peares that I see. 

Or I must die, so sore longeth me 

To eaten of the smalle peares green; 

Help, for her love that is of heaven queen! 

I tell you well, a woman in my plight <30> 

May have to fruit so great an appetite. 

That she may dien, but* she of it have. " *unless 

"Alas!" quoth he, "that I had here a knave* *servant 

That coulde climb; alas! alas!" quoth he, 

"For I am blind." "Yea, Sir, *no force,"* quoth she; *no matter* 

"But would ye vouchesafe, for Godde's sake. 

The perry in your armes for to take 

(For well I wot that ye mistruste me). 

Then would I climbe well enough," quoth she, 

"So I my foot might set upon your back." 

"Certes," said he, "therein shall be no lack. 

Might I you helpe with mine hearte's blood." 

He stooped down, and on his back she stood. 

And caught her by a twist,* and up she go'th. *twig, bough 

(Ladies, I pray you that ye be not wroth, 

I cannot glose,* I am a rude man): *mince matters 

And suddenly anon this Damian 

Gan pullen up the smock, and in he throng.* *rushed <31> 

And when that Pluto saw this greate wrong. 

To January he gave again his sight. 

And made him see as well as ever he might. 

And when he thus had caught his sight again. 

Was never man of anything so fain: 

But on his wife his thought was evermo'. 

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Up to the tree he cast his eyen two. 

And saw how Damian his wife had dress'd. 

In such mannere, it may not be express'd, 

*But iP I woulde speak uncourteously *unless* 

And up he gave a roaring and a cry. 

As doth the mother when the child shall die; 

"Out! help! alas! harow!" he gan to cry; 

"O stronge, lady, stowre! <32> what doest thou?" 

And she answered: "Sir, what aileth you? 

Have patience and reason in your mind, 

I have you help'd on both your eyen blind. 

On peril of my soul, I shall not lien. 

As me was taught to helpe with your eyen. 

Was nothing better for to make you see. 

Than struggle with a man upon a tree: 

God wot, I did it in full good intent." 

"Struggle!" quoth he, "yea, algate* in it went. 

God give you both one shame's death to dien! 

He swived* thee; I saw it with mine eyen; 

And elles be I hanged by the halse."* 

"Then is," quoth she, "my medicine all false; 

For certainly, if that ye mighte see. 

Ye would not say these wordes unto me. 

Ye have some glimpsing,* and no perfect sight.' 

"I see," quoth he, "as well as ever I might, 

(Thanked be God!) with both mine eyen two. 

And by my faith me thought he did thee so." 

"Ye maze,* ye maze, goode Sir," quoth she; 

"This thank have I for I have made you see: 

Alas!" quoth she, "that e'er I was so kind." 

"Now, Dame," quoth he, "let all pass out of mind; 

Come down, my lefe,* and if I have missaid, *love 

God help me so, as I am *evil apaid.* *dissatisfied* 


*whatever way 

enjoyed carnally 


*rave, are confused 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

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But, by my father's soul, I ween'd have seen 

How that this Damian had by thee lain. 

And that thy smock had lain upon his breast." 

"Yea, Sir," quoth she, "ye may Veen as ye lest:* *think as you 

But, Sir, a man that wakes out of his sleep, please* 

He may not suddenly well take keep* *notice 

Upon a thing, nor see it perfectly. 

Till that he be adawed* verily *awakened 

Right so a man, that long hath blind y-be. 

He may not suddenly so well y-see. 

First when his sight is newe come again. 

As he that hath a day or two y-seen. 

Till that your sight establish'd be a while. 

There may full many a sighte you beguile. 

Beware, I pray you, for, by heaven's king. 

Full many a man weeneth to see a thing. 

And it is all another than it seemeth; 

He which that misconceiveth oft misdeemeth." 

And with that word she leapt down from the tree. 

This January, who is glad but he? 

He kissed her, and clipped* her full oft, *embraced 

And on her womb he stroked her full soft; 

And to his palace home he hath her lad.* *led 

Now, goode men, I pray you to be glad. 

Thus endeth here my tale of January, 

God bless us, and his mother, Sainte Mary. 

The Prologue. 

"HEY! Godde's mercy!" said our Hoste tho, 
"Now such a wife I pray God keep me fro'. 
Lo, suche sleightes and subtilities 
In women be; for aye as busy as bees 
Are they us silly men for to deceive. 
And from the soothe* will they ever weive,** 
As this Merchante's tale it proveth well. 
But natheless, as true as any steel, 
I have a wife, though that she poore be; 
But of her tongue a labbing* shrew is she; 
And yet* she hath a heap of vices mo'. 
Thereof *no force;* let all such thinges go. 
But wit* ye what? in counsel** be it said. 
Me rueth sore I am unto her tied; 
For, an'* I shoulde reckon every vice 
Which that she hath, y-wis* I were too nice;* 
And cause why, it should reported be 
And told her by some of this company 
(By whom, it needeth not for to declare. 
Since women connen utter such chaffare < 1 > 
And eke my wit sufficeth not thereto 
To tellen all; wherefore my tale is do.* 
Squier, come near, if it your wille be. 
And say somewhat of love, for certes ye 
*Conne thereon* as much as any man." 
"Nay, Sir," quoth he; "but such thing as I can. 
With hearty will, — for I will not rebel 
Against your lust,* — a tale will I tell. 


*truth **swerve, depart 

*no matter* 
know **secret, confidence 

*certainly **foolish 


*know about it* 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Have me excused if I speak amiss; 

My will is good; and lo, my tale is this." 

The Tale. 

*Pars Prima.' 

*First part* 

At Sarra, in the land of Tartary, 

There dwelt a king that warrayed* Russie, <2> *made war on 

Through which there died many a doughty man; 

This noble king was called Cambuscan,<3> 

Which in his time was of so great renown, 

That there was nowhere in no regioun 

So excellent a lord in alle thing: 

Him lacked nought that longeth to a king, 

As of the sect of which that he was born. 

He kept his law to which he was y-sworn. 

And thereto* he was hardy, wise, and rich, *moreover, besides 

And piteous and just, always y-lich;* *alike, even-tempered 

True of his word, benign and honourable; 

*Of his corage as any centre stable;* *firm, immovable of spirit* 

Young, fresh, and strong, in armes desirous 

As any bachelor of all his house. 

A fair person he was, and fortunate. 

And kept alway so well his royal estate. 

That there was nowhere such another man. 

This noble king, this Tartar Cambuscan, 

Hadde two sons by Elfeta his wife. 

Of which the eldest highte Algarsife, 

The other was y-called Camballo. 

A daughter had this worthy king also. 

That youngest was, and highte Canace: 

But for to telle you all her beauty. 

It lies not in my tongue, nor my conning;* *skill 

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I dare not undertake so high a thing: 

Mine English eke is insufficient. 

It muste be a rhetor* excellent, *orator 

*That couth his colours longing for that art,* * see <4>* 

If he should her describen any part; 

I am none such, I must speak as I can. 


And so befell, that when this Cambuscan 

Had twenty winters borne his diadem. 

As he was wont from year to year, I deem. 

He let *the feast of his nativity* 

*Do crye,* throughout Sarra his city. 

The last Idus of March, after the year. 

Phoebus the sun full jolly was and clear. 

For he was nigh his exaltation 

In Marte's face, and in his mansion <5> 

In Aries, the choleric hot sign: 

Full lusty* was the weather and benign; 

For which the fowls against the sunne sheen,^ 

What for the season and the younge green. 

Full loude sange their affections: 

Them seemed to have got protections 

Against the sword of winter keen and cold. 

This Cambuscan, of which I have you told. 

In royal vesture, sat upon his dais. 

With diadem, full high in his palace; 

And held his feast so solemn and so rich. 

That in this worlde was there none it lich.* 

Of which if I should tell all the array. 

Then would it occupy a summer's day; 

And eke it needeth not for to devise* 

At every course the order of service. 

I will not tellen of their strange sewes,* 

Nor of their swannes, nor their heronsews.* 

his birthday party* 

*be proclaimed* 




*dishes <6> 
*young herons <7> 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Eke in that land, as telle knightes old, 
There is some meat that is full dainty hold. 
That in this land men *reck oP it full small: 
There is no man that may reporten all. 
I will not tarry you, for it is prime. 
And for it is no fruit, but loss of time; 
Unto my purpose* I will have recourse. 
And so befell that, after the third course. 
While that this king sat thus in his nobley,* 
Hearing his ministreles their thinges play 
Before him at his board deliciously. 
In at the halle door all suddenly 
There came a knight upon a steed of brass. 
And in his hand a broad mirror of glass; 
Upon his thumb he had of gold a ring. 
And by his side a naked sword hanging: 
And up he rode unto the highe board. 
In all the hall was there not spoke a word. 
For marvel of this knight; him to behold 
Full busily they waited,* young and old. 

*care for* 

*story <8> 
*noble array 


This strange knight, that came thus suddenly. 
All armed, save his head, full richely. 
Saluted king, and queen, and lordes all. 
By order as they satten in the hall. 
With so high reverence and observance. 
As well in speech as in his countenance. 
That Gawain <9> with his olde courtesy. 
Though he were come again out of Faerie, 
Him *coulde not amende with a word.* 
And after this, before the highe board. 
He with a manly voice said his message. 
After the form used in his language, 
Withoute vice* of syllable or letter. 

*could not better him 
by one word* 


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And, for his tale shoulde seem the better. 

Accordant to his worde's was his cheer,* *demeanour 

As teacheth art of speech them that it lear.* *learn 

Albeit that I cannot sound his style. 

Nor cannot climb over so high a stile. 

Yet say I this, as to *commune intent,* *general sense or meaning* 

*Thus much amounteth* all that ever he meant. 

If it so be that I have it in mind. 

He said; "The king of Araby and Ind, 

My liege lord, on this solemne day 

Saluteth you as he best can and may. 

And sendeth you, in honour of your feast. 

By me, that am all ready at your best,* 

This steed of brass, that easily and well 

Can in the space of one day naturel 

(This is to say, in four-and-twenty hours), 

Whereso you list, in drought or else in show'rs, 

Beare your body into every place 

To which your hearte willeth for to pace,* 

Withoute wem* of you, through foul or fair. 

Or if you list to fly as high in air 

As doth an eagle, when him list to soar. 

This same steed shall bear you evermore 

Withoute harm, till ye be where *you lest* 

(Though that ye sleepen on his back, or rest). 

And turn again, with writhing* of a pin. 

He that it wrought, he coude* many a gin;' 

He waited* in any a constellation. 

Ere he had done this operation. 

And knew full many a seal < 1 1 > and many a bond 

This mirror eke, that I have in mine bond. 

Hath such a might, that men may in it see 

When there shall fall any adversity 

Unto your realm, or to yourself also. 

*this is the sum of 


pass, go 
*hurt, injury 

*it pleases you* 

knew **contrivance < 10> 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And openly who is your friend or foe. 

And over all this, if any lady bright 

Hath set her heart on any manner wight, 

If he be false, she shall his treason see. 

His newe love, and all his subtlety. 

So openly that there shall nothing hide. 

Wherefore, against this lusty summer-tide. 

This mirror, and this ring that ye may see. 

He hath sent to my lady Canace, 

Your excellente daughter that is here. 

The virtue of this ring, if ye will hear. 

Is this, that if her list it for to wear 

Upon her thumb, or in her purse it bear. 

There is no fowl that flyeth under heaven. 

That she shall not well understand his Steven,* 

And know his meaning openly and plain. 

And answer him in his language again: 

And every grass that groweth upon root 

She shall eke know, to whom it will do boot,* 

All be his woundes ne'er so deep and wide. 

This naked sword, that hangeth by my side. 

Such virtue hath, that what man that it smite. 

Throughout his armour it will carve and bite. 

Were it as thick as is a branched oak: 

And what man is y-wounded with the stroke 

Shall ne'er be whole, till that you list, of grace. 

To stroke him with the flat in thilke* place 

Where he is hurt; this is as much to sayn. 

Ye muste with the flatte sword again 

Stroke him upon the wound, and it will close. 

This is the very sooth, withoute glose;* 

It faileth not, while it is in your hold." 

And when this knight had thus his tale told. 

*speech, sound 


*the same 



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He rode out of the hall, and down he light. 

His steede, which that shone as sunne bright. 

Stood in the court as still as any stone. 

The knight is to his chamber led anon. 

And is unarmed, and to meat y-set.* 

These presents be full richely y-fet,* — 

This is to say, the sword and the mirrour, — 

And borne anon into the highe tow'r. 

With certain officers ordain'd therefor; 

And unto Canace the ring is bore 

Solemnely, where she sat at the table; 

But sickerly, withouten any fable. 

The horse of brass, that may not be remued.' 

It stood as it were to the ground y-glued; 

There may no man out of the place it drive 

For no engine of windlass or polive; * 

And cause why, for they *can not the craft;* 

And therefore in the place they have it laft. 

Till that the knight hath taught them the mannere 

To voide* him, as ye shall after hear. 


*removed <12> 

know not the cunning 
of the mechanism* 

Great was the press, that swarmed to and fro 
To gauren* on this horse that stoode so: 
For it so high was, and so broad and long. 
So well proportioned for to be strong. 
Right as it were a steed of Lombardy; 
Therewith so horsely, and so quick of eye. 
As it a gentle Poileis < 13 > courser were: 
For certes, from his tail unto his ear 
Nature nor art ne could him not amend 
In no degree, as all the people wend.* 
But evermore their moste wonder was 
How that it coulde go, and was of brass; 
It was of Faerie, as the people seem'd. 


*weened, thought 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

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Diverse folk diversely they deem'd; 

As many heads, as many wittes been. 

They murmured, as doth a swarm of been,* *bees 

And made skills* after their fantasies, *reasons 

Rehearsing of the olde poetries. 

And said that it was like the Pegasee,* *Pegasus 

The horse that hadde winges for to flee;* *fly 

Or else it was the Greeke's horse Sinon,< 14> 

That broughte Troye to destruction. 

As men may in the olde gestes* read. *tales of adventures 

Mine heart," quoth one, "is evermore in dread; 

I trow some men of armes be therein. 

That shape* them this city for to win: *design, prepare 

It were right good that all such thing were know." 

Another rowned* to his fellow low, *whispered 

And said, "He lies; for it is rather like 

An apparence made by some magic. 

As jugglers playen at these feastes great." 

Of sundry doubts they jangle thus and treat. 

As lewed* people deeme commonly *ignorant 

Of thinges that be made more subtilly 

Than they can in their lewdness comprehend; 

They *deeme gladly to the badder end.* *are ready to think 

And some of them wonder 'd on the mirrour, the worst* 

That borne was up into the master* tow'r, *chief < 15 > 

How men might in it suche thinges see. 

Another answer'd and said, it might well be 

Naturally by compositions 

Of angles, and of sly reflections; 

And saide that in Rome was such a one. 

They speak of Alhazen and Vitellon,< 16> 

And Aristotle, that wrote in their lives 

Of quainte* mirrors, and of prospectives, *curious 

As knowe they that have their bookes heard. 




*a reputation for 

And other folk have wonder 'd on the swerd,* 

That woulde pierce throughout every thing; 

And fell in speech of Telephus the king. 

And of Achilles for his quainte spear, <17> 

For he could with it bothe heal and dere,* 

Right in such wise as men may with the swerd 

Of which right now ye have yourselves heard. 

They spake of sundry hard'ning of metal. 

And spake of medicines therewithal. 

And how, and when, it shoulde harden'd be. 

Which is unknowen algate* unto me. 

Then spake they of Canacee's ring. 

And saiden all, that such a wondrous thing 

Of craft of rings heard they never none. 

Save that he, Moses, and King Solomon, 

Hadden *a name of conning* in such art. 

Thus said the people, and drew them apart. 

Put natheless some saide that it was 

Wonder to maken of fern ashes glass. 

And yet is glass nought like ashes of fern; 

*But for* they have y-knowen it so feme** *because **before < 18> 

Therefore ceaseth their jangling and their wonder. 

As sore wonder some on cause of thunder. 

On ebb and flood, on gossamer and mist. 

And on all things, till that the cause is wist.* *known 

Thus jangle they, and deemen and devise. 

Till that the king gan from his board arise. 

Phoebus had left the angle meridional. 
And yet ascending was the beast royal. 
The gentle Lion, with his Aldrian, < 19> 
When that this Tartar king, this Cambuscan, 
Rose from the board, there as he sat full high 
Before him went the loude minstrelsy. 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Till he came to his chamber of parements,<20> 

There as they sounded diverse instruments, 

That it was like a heaven for to hear. 

Now danced lusty Venus' children dear: 

For in the Fish* their lady sat full Tisces 

And looked on them with a friendly eye. <21 > 

This noble king is set upon his throne; 

This strange knight is fetched to him full sone,* *soon 

And on the dance he goes with Canace. 

Here is the revel and the jollity, 

That is not able a dull man to devise:* *describe 

He must have knowen love and his service. 

And been a feastly* man, as fresh as May, *merry, gay 

That shoulde you devise such array. 

Who coulde telle you the form of dances 

So uncouth,* and so freshe countenances** *unfamliar **gestures 

Such subtle lookings and dissimulances. 

For dread of jealous men's apperceivings? 

No man but Launcelot,<22> and he is dead. 

Therefore I pass o'er all this lustihead* *pleasantness 

I say no more, but in this jolliness 

I leave them, till to supper men them dress. 

The steward bids the spices for to hie* *haste 

And eke the wine, in all this melody; 

The ushers and the squiers be y-gone. 

The spices and the wine is come anon; 

They eat and drink, and when this hath an end. 

Unto the temple, as reason was, they wend; 

The service done, they suppen all by day 

What needeth you rehearse their array? 

Each man wot well, that at a kinge's feast 

Is plenty, to the most*, and to the least, *highest 

And dainties more than be in my knowing. 

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At after supper went this noble king 

To see the horse of brass, with all a rout 

Of lordes and of ladies him about. 

Such wond'ring was there on this horse of brass. 

That, since the great siege of Troye was. 

There as men wonder 'd on a horse also. 

Ne'er was there such a wond'ring as was tho.* 

But fmally the king asked the knight 

The virtue of this courser, and the might. 

And prayed him to tell his governance.* * 

The horse anon began to trip and dance. 

When that the knight laid hand upon his rein. 

And saide, "Sir, there is no more to sayn. 

But when you list to riden anywhere. 

Ye muste trill* a pin, stands in his ear. 

Which I shall telle you betwixt us two; 

Ye muste name him to what place also. 

Or to what country that you list to ride. 

And when ye come where you list abide. 

Bid him descend, and trill another pin 

(For therein lies th' effect of all the gin*). 

And he will down descend and do your will. 

And in that place he will abide still; 

Though all the world had the contrary swore. 

He shall not thence be throwen nor be bore. 

Or, if you list to bid him thennes gon. 

Trill this pin, and he will vanish anon 

Out of the sight of every manner wight. 

And come again, be it by day or night. 

When that you list to clepe* him again 

In such a guise, as I shall to you sayn 

Betwixte you and me, and that full soon. 

Ride <24> when you list, there is no more to do'n.' 

Informed when the king was of the knight. 


mode of managing him 

'turn <23> 

contrivance <10> 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And had conceived in his wit aright 

The manner and the form of all this thing, 

Full glad and blithe, this noble doughty king 

Repaired to his revel as beforn. 

The bridle is into the tower borne. 

And kept among his jewels lefe* and dear; *cherished 

The horse vanish'd, I not* in what mannere, *know not 

Out of their sight; ye get no more of me: 

But thus I leave in lust and jollity 

This Cambuscan his lordes feastying,* *entertaining <25> 

Until well nigh the day began to spring. 

*Pars Secunda.^ 

*Second Part* 

The norice* of digestion, the sleep, *nurse 

Gan on them wink, and bade them take keep,* *heed 

That muche mirth and labour will have rest. 

And with a gaping* mouth he all them kest,** *yawning **kissed 

And said, that it was time to lie down. 

For blood was in his dominatioun: <26> 

"Cherish the blood, nature's friend," quoth he. 

They thanked him gaping, by two and three; 

And every wight gan draw him to his rest; 

As sleep them bade, they took it for the best. 

Their dreames shall not now be told for me; 

Full are their heades of fumosity,<27> 

That caused dreams *of which there is no charge:* *of no significance* 

They slepte; till that, it was *prime large,* *late morning* 

The moste part, but* it was Canace; *except 

She was full measurable,* as women be: *moderate 

For of her father had she ta'en her leave 

To go to rest, soon after it was eve; 

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Her liste not appalled* for to be; 
Nor on the morrow *unfeastly for to see;* 
And slept her firste sleep; and then awoke. 
For such a joy she in her hearte took 
Both of her quainte a ring and her mirrour,. 
That twenty times she changed her colour; 
And in her sleep, right for th' impression 
Of her mirror, she had a vision. 
Wherefore, ere that the sunne gan up glide. 
She call'd upon her mistress'* her beside. 
And saide, that her liste for to rise. 


*to look pale 
*to look sad, depressed* 


These olde women, that be gladly wise 

As are her mistresses answer'd anon. 

And said; "Madame, whither will ye gon 

Thus early? for the folk be all in rest." 

"I will," quoth she, "arise; for me lest 

No longer for to sleep, and walk about." 

Her mistresses call'd women a great rout. 

And up they rose, well a ten or twelve; 

Up rose freshe Canace herselve. 

As ruddy and bright as is the yonnge sun 

That in the Ram is four degrees y-run; 

No higher was he, when she ready was; 

And forth she walked easily a pace. 

Array 'd after the lusty* season swoot,** 

Lightely for to play, and walk on foot. 

Nought but with five or six of her meinie; 

And in a trench* forth in the park went she. 

The vapour, which up from the earthe glode,* 

Made the sun to seem ruddy and broad: 

But, natheless, it was so fair a sight 

That it made all their heartes for to light,* 

What for the season and the morrowning. 

*pleasant **sweet 

*sunken path 

*be lightened, glad 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And for the fowles that she hearde sing. 

For right anon she wiste* what they meant *knew 

Right by their song, and knew all their intent. 

The knotte,* why that every tale is told, *nucleus, chief matter 

If it be tarried* till the list* be cold *delayed **inclination 

Of them that have it hearken'd *after yore,* *for a long time* 

The savour passeth ever longer more; 

For fulsomness of the prolixity: 

And by that same reason thinketh me. 

I shoulde unto the knotte condescend. 

And maken of her walking soon an end. 

Amid a tree fordry*, as white as chalk, *thoroughly dried up 

There sat a falcon o'er her head full high. 

That with a piteous voice so gan to cry; 

That all the wood resounded of her cry. 

And beat she had herself so piteously 

With both her winges, till the redde blood 

Ran endelong* the tree, there as she stood *from top to bottom 

And ever-in-one* alway she cried and shright;** *incessantly **shrieked 

And with her beak herselfe she so pight,* *wounded 

That there is no tiger, nor cruel beast. 

That dwelleth either in wood or in forest; 

But would have wept, if that he weepe could. 

For sorrow of her; she shriek'd alway so loud. 

For there was never yet no man alive. 

If that he could a falcon well descrive;* *describe 

That heard of such another of fairness 

As well of plumage, as of gentleness; 

Of shape, of all that mighte reckon'd be. 

A falcon peregrine seemed she. 

Of fremde* land; and ever as she stood *foreign <28> 

She swooned now and now for lack of blood; 

Till well-nigh is she fallen from the tree. 

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This faire kinge's daughter Canace, 

That on her fmger bare the quainte ring. 

Through which she understood well every thing 

That any fowl may in his leden* sayn, **language <29> 

And could him answer in his leden again; 

Hath understoode what this falcon said. 

And well-nigh for the ruth* almost she died;. *pity 

And to the tree she went, full hastily. 

And on this falcon looked piteously; 

And held her lap abroad; for well she wist 

The falcon muste falle from the twist* *twig, bough 

When that she swooned next, for lack of blood. 

A longe while to waite her she stood; 

Till at the last she apake in this mannere 

Unto the hawk, as ye shall after hear: 

"What is the cause, if it be for to tell. 

That ye be in this furial* pain of hell?" *raging, furious 

Quoth Canace unto this hawk above; 

"Is this for sorrow of of death; or loss of love? 

For; as I trow,* these be the causes two; *believe 

That cause most a gentle hearte woe: 

Of other harm it needeth not to speak. 

For ye yourself upon yourself awreak;* *inflict 

Which proveth well, that either ire or dread* *fear 

Must be occasion of your cruel deed. 

Since that I see none other wight you chase: 

For love of God, as *do yourselfe grace;* *have mercy on 

Or what may be your help? for, west nor east, yourselP 

I never saw ere now no bird nor beast 

That fared with himself so piteously 

Ye slay me with your sorrow verily; 

I have of you so great compassioun. 

For Godde's love come from the tree adown 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

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And, as I am a kinge's daughter true, 
If that I verily the causes knew 
Of your disease,* if it lay in my might, 
I would amend it, ere that it were night. 
So wisly help me the great God of kind.** 
And herbes shall I right enoughe fmd. 
To heale with your hurtes hastily." 
Then shriek'd this falcon yet more piteously 
Than ever she did, and fell to ground anon. 
And lay aswoon, as dead as lies a stone. 
Till Canace had in her lap her take. 
Unto that time she gan of swoon awake: 
And, after that she out of swoon abraid,* 
Right in her hawke's leden thus she said: 

*surely **nature 


"That pity runneth soon in gentle heart 

(Feeling his simil'tude in paines smart). 

Is proved every day, as men may see. 

As well *by work as by authority;* *by experience as by doctrine* 

For gentle hearte kitheth* gentleness. *sheweth 

I see well, that ye have on my distress 

Compassion, my faire Canace, 

Of very womanly benignity 

That nature in your princples hath set. 

But for no hope for to fare the bet,* 

But for t' obey unto your hearte free. 

And for to make others aware by me. 

As by the whelp chastis'd* is the lion. 

Right for that cause and that conclusion. 

While that I have a leisure and a space. 

Mine harm I will confessen ere I pace."* *depart 

And ever while the one her sorrow told. 

The other wept, *as she to water wold,* *as if she would dissolve 

Till that the falcon bade her to be still, into water* 


*instructed, corrected 

And with a sigh right thus she said *her till:* 

"Where I was bred (alas that ilke* day!) 

And foster 'd in a rock of marble gray 

So tenderly, that nothing ailed me, 

I wiste* not what was adversity. 

Till I could flee* full high under the sky. 

Then dwell'd a tercelet <30> me faste by. 

That seem'd a well of alle gentleness; 

*A11 were he* full of treason and falseness. 

It was so wrapped *under humble cheer,* 

And under hue of truth, in such mannere. 

Under pleasance, and under busy pain. 

That no wight weened that he coulde feign. 

So deep in grain he dyed his colours. 

Right as a serpent hides him under flow'rs. 

Till he may see his time for to bite. 

Right so this god of love's hypocrite 

Did so his ceremonies and obeisances. 

And kept in semblance all his observances. 

That *sounden unto* gentleness of love. 

As on a tomb is all the fair above. 

And under is the corpse, which that ye wet. 

Such was this hypocrite, both cold and hot; 

And in this wise he served his intent. 

That, save the fiend, none wiste what he meant: 

Till he so long had weeped and complain'd. 

And many a year his service to me feign'd. 

Till that mine heart, too piteous and too nice,* 

All innocent of his crowned malice, 

*Forfeared of his death,* as thoughte me. 

Upon his oathes and his surety 

Granted him love, on this conditioun. 

That evermore mine honour and renown 

Were saved, bothe *privy and apert;* 

*to her* 


*although he was* 
*under an aspect 
of humility* 

are consonant to 

*foolish, simple 

*greatly afraid lest 
he should die* 

privately and in public* 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

This is to say, that, after his desert, 

I gave him all my heart and all my thought 

(God wot, and he, that *other wayes nought*), *in no other way* 

And took his heart in change of mine for aye. 

But sooth is said, gone since many a day, 

A true wight and a thiefe *think not one.* *do not think alike* 

And when he saw the thing so far y-gone. 

That I had granted him fully my love. 

In such a wise as I have said above. 

And given him my true heart as free 

As he swore that he gave his heart to me. 

Anon this tiger, full of doubleness. 

Fell on his knees with so great humbleness. 

With so high reverence, as by his cheer,* *mien 

So like a gentle lover in mannere. 

So ravish'd, as it seemed, for the joy. 

That never Jason, nor Paris of Troy, — 

Jason? certes, nor ever other man. 

Since Lamech <31> was, that alderfirst* began *first of all 

To love two, as write folk beforn. 

Nor ever since the firste man was born, 

Coulde no man, by twenty thousand 

Counterfeit the sophimes* of his art; *sophistries, beguilements 

Where doubleness of feigning should approach. 

Nor worthy were t'unbuckle his galoche,* *shoe <32> 

Nor could so thank a wight, as he did me. 

His manner was a heaven for to see 

To any woman, were she ne'er so wise; 

So painted he and kempt,* *at point devise,* *combed, studied 

As well his wordes as his countenance. *with perfect precision* 

And I so lov'd him for his obeisance. 

And for the truth I deemed in his heart. 

That, if so were that any thing him smart,* *pained 

All were it ne'er so lite,* and I it wist, *little 

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Methought I felt death at my hearte twist. 
And shortly, so farforth this thing is went,* 
That my will was his wille's instrument; 
That is to say, my will obey'd his will 
In alle thing, as far as reason fill,* 
Keeping the boundes of my worship ever; 
And never had I thing *so lefe, or lever,* 
As him, God wot, nor never shall no mo'. 


*fell; allowed 

*so dear, or dearer* 


"This lasted longer than a year or two. 

That I supposed of him naught but good. 

But finally, thus at the last it stood. 

That fortune woulde that he muste twin* *depart, separate 

Out of that place which that I was in. 

Whe'er* me was woe, it is no question; *whether 

I cannot make of it description. 

For one thing dare I telle boldely, 

I know what is the pain of death thereby; 

Such harm I felt, for he might not byleve.* *stay <33> 

So on a day of me he took his leave. 

So sorrowful eke, that I ween'd verily. 

That he had felt as muche harm as I, 

When that I heard him speak, and saw his hue. 

But natheless, I thought he was so true. 

And eke that he repaire should again 

Within a little while, sooth to sayn. 

And reason would eke that he muste go 

For his honour, as often happ'neth so. 

That I made virtue of necessity. 

And took it well, since that it muste be. 

As I best might, I hid from him my sorrow. 

And took him by the hand. Saint John to borrow,* *witness, pledge 

And said him thus; 'Lo, I am youres all; 

Be such as I have been to you, and shall' 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

What he answer 'd, it needs not to rehearse; 

Who can say bet* than he, who can do worse? *better 

When he had all well said, then had he done. 

Therefore behoveth him a full long spoon. 

That shall eat with a fiend; thus heard I say. 

So at the last he muste forth his way. 

And forth he flew, till he came where him lest. 

When it came him to purpose for to rest, 

I trow that he had thilke text in mind. 

That alle thing repairing to his kind 

Gladdeth himself; <34> thus say men, as I guess; 

*Men love of [proper] kind newfangleness,* *see note <35>* 

As birdes do, that men in cages feed. 

For though thou night and day take of them heed. 

And strew their cage fair and soft as silk. 

And give them sugar, honey, bread, and milk. 

Yet, *right anon as that his door is up,* 

He with his feet will spurne down his cup. 

And to the wood he will, and wormes eat; 

So newefangle be they of their meat. 

And love novelties, of proper kind; 

No gentleness of bloode may them bind. 

So far'd this tercelet, alas the day! 

Though he were gentle born, and fresh, and gay. 

And goodly for to see, and humble, and free. 

He saw upon a time a kite flee,* *fly 

And suddenly he loved this kite so. 

That all his love is clean from me y-go: 

And hath his trothe falsed in this wise. 

Thus hath the kite my love in her service. 

And I am lorn* withoute remedy." *lost, undone 

immediately on his 
door being opened* 

And with that word this falcon gan to cry. 
And swooned eft* in Canacee's barme** 

*again **lap 

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Great was the sorrow, for that hawke's harm. 

That Canace and all her women made; 

They wist not how they might the falcon glade.* *gladden 

But Canace home bare her in her lap. 

And softely in plasters gan her wrap. 

There as she with her beak had hurt herselve. 

Now cannot Canace but herbes delve 

Out of the ground, and make salves new 

Of herbes precious and fme of hue. 

To heale with this hawk; from day to night 

She did her business, and all her might. 

And by her bedde's head she made a mew,* *bird cage 

And cover 'd it with velouettes* blue, < 3 6 > *velvets 

In sign of truth that is in woman seen; 

And all without the mew is painted green. 

In which were painted all these false fowls. 

As be these tidifes,* tercelets, and owls; *titmice 

And pies, on them for to cry and chide. 

Right for despite were painted them beside. 


Thus leave I Canace her hawk keeping. 
I will no more as now speak of her ring. 
Till it come eft* to purpose for to sayn 
How that this falcon got her love again 
Repentant, as the story telleth us. 
By mediation of Camballus, 
The kinge's son of which that I you told. 
But henceforth I will my process hold 
To speak of aventures, and of battailes. 
That yet was never heard so great marvailles. 
First I will telle you of Cambuscan, 
That in his time many a city wan; 
And after will I speak of Algarsife, 
How he won Theodora to his wife. 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

For whom full oft in great peril he was, 
*N'had he* been holpen by the horse of brass. 
And after will I speak of Camballo, <37> 
That fought in listes with the brethren two 
For Canace, ere that he might her win; 
And where I left I will again begin. 
. <38> 

*had he not* 

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^^mjo^^^}^ ^yme. 

The Prologue. 

"IN faith, Squier, thou hast thee well acquit. 

And gentilly; I praise well thy wit," 

Quoth the Franklin; "considering thy youthe 

So feelingly thou speak'st. Sir, I aloue* thee, 

*As to my doom,* there is none that is here 

Of eloquence that shall be thy peer. 

If that thou live; God give thee goode chance. 

And in virtue send thee continuance. 

For of thy speaking I have great dainty* 

I have a son, and, by the Trinity; 

*It were me lever* than twenty pound worth land. 

Though it right now were fallen in my hand. 

He were a man of such discretion 

As that ye be: fy on possession, 

*But iP a man be virtuous withal. 

I have my sone snibbed* and yet shall. 

For he to virtue *listeth not t'intend,* 

But for to play at dice, and to dispend. 

And lose all that he hath, is his usage; 

And he had lever talke with a page. 

Than to commune with any gentle wight. 

There he might learen gentilless aright." 

*allow, approve 
*so far as my judgment 

*value, esteem 

*I would rather* 

*rebuked; "snubbed." 
*does not wish to 
apply himself 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Straw for your gentillesse!" quoth our Host. 

"What? Frankelin, pardie, Sir, well thou wost* *knowest 

That each of you must tellen at the least 

A tale or two, or breake his behest."* *promise 

"That know I well. Sir," quoth the Frankelin; 

"I pray you have me not in disdain. 

Though I to this man speak a word or two." 

"Tell on thy tale, withoute wordes mo'." 

"Gladly, Sir Host," quoth he, "I will obey 

Unto your will; now hearken what I say; 

I will you not contrary* in no wise, *disobey 

As far as that my wittes may suffice. 

I pray to God that it may please you. 

Then wot I well that it is good enow. 

"These olde gentle Bretons, in their days. 

Of divers aventures made lays,<2> 

Rhymeden in their firste Breton tongue; 

Which layes with their instruments they sung. 

Or elles reade them for their pleasance; 

And one of them have I in remembrance. 

Which I shall say with good will as I can. 

But, Sirs, because I am a borel* man, *rude, unlearned 

At my beginning first I you beseech 

Have me excused of my rude speech. 

I learned never rhetoric, certain; 

Thing that I speak, it must be bare and plain. 

I slept never on the mount of Parnasso, 

Nor learned Marcus Tullius Cicero. 

Coloures know I none, withoute dread,* *doubt 

But such colours as growen in the mead. 

Or elles such as men dye with or paint; 

Colours of rhetoric be to me quaint;* *strange 

My spirit feeleth not of such mattere. 

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But, if you list, my tale shall ye hear." 

The Tale. 

In Armoric', that called is Bretagne, 

There was a knight, that lov'd and *did his pain* 

To serve a lady in his beste wise; 

And many a labour, many a great emprise,* 

He for his lady wrought, ere she were won: 

For she was one the fairest under sun. 

And eke thereto come of so high kindred. 

That *well unnethes durst this knight for dread. 

Tell her his woe, his pain, and his distress 

But, at the last, she for his worthiness. 

And namely* for his meek obeisance. 

Hath such a pity caught of his penance,* ^ 

That privily she fell of his accord 

To take him for her husband and her lord 

(Of such lordship as men have o'er their wives); 

And, for to lead the more in bliss their lives. 

Of his free will he swore her as a knight. 

That never in all his life he day nor night 

Should take upon himself no mastery 

Against her will, nor kithe* her jealousy. 

But her obey, and follow her will in all. 

As any lover to his lady shall; 

Save that the name of sovereignety 

That would he have, for shame of his degree. 

She thanked him, and with full great humbless 

She saide; "Sir, since of your gentleness 

Ye proffer me to have so large a reign, 

*Ne woulde God never betwixt us twain. 

As in my guilt, were either war or strife:* 


*devoted himself, 


*seenote <1> 

suffering, distress 


*see note <2>* 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Sir, I will be your humble true wife, 

Have here my troth, till that my hearte brest.' 

Thus be they both in quiet and in rest. 


For one thing. Sires, safely dare I say. 

That friends ever each other must obey. 

If they will longe hold in company 

Love will not be constraint by mastery 

When mast'ry comes, the god of love anon 

Beateth <3> his wings, and, farewell, he is gone. 

Love is a thing as any spirit free. 

Women *of kind* desire liberty, *by nature* 

And not to be constrained as a thrall,* *slave 

And so do men, if soothly I say shall. 

Look who that is most patient in love. 

He *is at his advantage all above.* *enjoys the highest 

Patience is a high virtue certain, advantages of all* 

For it vanquisheth, as these clerkes sayn, 

Thinges that rigour never should attain. 

For every word men may not chide or plain. 

Learne to suffer, or, so may I go,* *prosper 

Ye shall it learn whether ye will or no. 

For in this world certain no wight there is. 

That he not doth or saith sometimes amiss. 

Ire, or sickness, or constellation,* *the influence of 

Wine, woe, or changing of complexion, the planets* 

Causeth full oft to do amiss or speaken: 

On every wrong a man may not be wreaken.* *revenged 

After* the time must be temperance *according to 

To every wight that *can oP governance. *is capable of 

And therefore hath this worthy wise knight 

(To live in ease) sufferance her behight;* *promised 

And she to him full wisly* gan to swear *surely 

That never should there be default in her. 

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Here may men see a humble wife accord; 

Thus hath she ta'en her servant and her lord. 

Servant in love, and lord in marriage. 

Then was he both in lordship and servage? 

Servage? nay, but in lordship all above. 

Since he had both his lady and his love: 

His lady certes, and his wife also. 

The which that law of love accordeth to. 

And when he was in this prosperrity 

Home with his wife he went to his country. 

Not far from Penmark,<4> where his dwelling was. 

And there he liv'd in bliss and in solace.* *delight 

Who coulde tell, but* he had wedded be, *unless 

The joy, the ease, and the prosperity. 

That is betwixt a husband and his wife? 

A year and more lasted this blissful life. 

Till that this knight, of whom I spake thus. 

That of Cairrud <5> was call'd Arviragus, 

Shope* him to go and dwell a year or twain *prepared, arranged 

In Engleland, that call'd was eke Britain, 

To seek in armes worship and honour 

(For all his lust* he set in such labour); *pleasure 

And dwelled there two years; the book saith thus. 

Now will I stint* of this Arviragus, *cease speaking 

And speak I will of Dorigen his wife. 

That lov'd her husband as her hearte's life. 

For his absence weepeth she and siketh,* *sigheth 

As do these noble wives when them liketh; 

She mourneth, waketh, waileth, fasteth, plaineth; 

Desire of his presence her so distraineth. 

That all this wide world she set at nought. 

Her friendes, which that knew her heavy thought, 

Comforte her in all that ever they may; 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

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They preache her, they tell her night and day, 

That causeless she slays herself, alas! 

And every comfort possible in this case 

They do to her, with all their business,* *assiduity 

And all to make her leave her heaviness. 

By process, as ye knowen every one. 

Men may so longe graven in a stone. 

Till some figure therein imprinted be: 

So long have they comforted her, till she 

Received hath, by hope and by reason, 

Th' imprinting of their consolation. 

Through which her greate sorrow gan assuage; 

She may not always duren in such rage. 

And eke Arviragus, in all this care. 

Hath sent his letters home of his welfare. 

And that he will come hastily again. 

Or elles had this sorrow her hearty-slain. 

Her friendes saw her sorrow gin to slake,* *slacken, diminish 

And prayed her on knees for Godde's sake 

To come and roamen in their company. 

Away to drive her darke fantasy; 

And finally she granted that request. 

For well she saw that it was for the best. 

Now stood her castle faste by the sea. 

And often with her friendes walked she. 

Her to disport upon the bank on high. 

There as many a ship and barge sigh,* *saw 

Sailing their courses, where them list to go. 

But then was that a parcel* of her woe, *part 

For to herself full oft, "Alas!" said she. 

Is there no ship, of so many as I see. 

Will bringe home my lord? then were my heart 

All warish'd* of this bitter paine's smart." *cured <6> 

Another time would she sit and think. 
And cast her eyen downward from the brink; 
But when she saw the grisly rockes blake,* 
For very fear so would her hearte quake. 
That on her feet she might her not sustene* 
Then would she sit adown upon the green. 
And piteously *into the sea behold,* 
And say right thus, with *careful sikes* cold: 
"Eternal God! that through thy purveyance 
Leadest this world by certain governance, 
*In idle,* as men say, ye nothing make; 
But, Lord, these grisly fiendly rockes blake. 
That seem rather a foul confusion 
Of work, than any fair creation 
Of such a perfect wise God and stable. 
Why have ye wrought this work unreasonable? 
For by this work, north, south, or west, or east. 
There is not foster'd man, nor bird, nor beast: 
It doth no good, to my wit, but *annoyeth.* 
See ye not. Lord, how mankind it destroyeth? 
A hundred thousand bodies of mankind 
Have rockes slain, *all be they not in mind;* 
Which mankind is so fair part of thy work. 
Thou madest it like to thine owen mark.* 
Then seemed it ye had a great cherte* 
Toward mankind; but how then may it be 
That ye such meanes make it to destroy? 
Which meanes do no good, but ever annoy. 
I wot well, clerkes will say as them lest,* 
By arguments, that all is for the best. 
Although I can the causes not y-know; 
But thilke* God that made the wind to blow. 
As keep my lord, this is my conclusion: 
To clerks leave I all disputation: 



look out on the sea* 
*painful sighs* 


*works mischieP <7> 

*though they are 
*love, affection 




Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

But would to God that all these rockes blake 
Were sunken into helle for his sake 
These rockes slay mine hearte for the fear." 
Thus would she say, with many a piteous tear. 

Her friendes saw that it was no disport 

To roame by the sea, but discomfort. 

And shope* them for to playe somewhere else. *arranged 

They leade her by rivers and by wells. 

And eke in other places delectables; 

They dancen, and they play at chess and tables.* *backgammon 

So on a day, right in the morning-tide. 

Unto a garden that was there beside. 

In which that they had made their ordinance* *provision, arrangement 

Of victual, and of other purveyance. 

They go and play them all the longe day: 

And this was on the sixth morrow of May, 

Which May had painted with his softe showers 

This garden full of leaves and of flowers: 

And craft of manne's hand so curiously 

Arrayed had this garden truely. 

That never was there garden of such price,* *value, praise 

*But iP it were the very Paradise. *unless* 

Th'odour of flowers, and the freshe sight. 

Would have maked any hearte light 

That e'er was born, *but iP too great sickness *unless* 

Or too great sorrow held it in distress; 

So full it was of beauty and pleasance. 

And after dinner they began to dance 

And sing also, save Dorigen alone 

Who made alway her complaint and her moan. 

For she saw not him on the dance go 

That was her husband, and her love also; 

But natheless she must a time abide 

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And with good hope let her sorrow slide. 

*esteem, value 

*unknown to* 

Upon this dance, amonge other men. 

Danced a squier before Dorigen 

That fresher was, and jollier of array 

*As to my doom,* than is the month of May. *in my judgment* 

He sang and danced, passing any man. 

That is or was since that the world began; 

Therewith he was, if men should him descrive. 

One of the *beste faring* men alive, *most accomplished* 

Young, strong, and virtuous, and rich, and wise. 

And well beloved, and holden in great price.* 

And, shortly if the sooth I telle shall, 

*Unweeting oP this Dorigen at all. 

This lusty squier, servant to Venus, 

Which that y-called was Aurelius, 

Had lov'd her best of any creature 

Two year and more, as was his aventure;* *fortune 

But never durst he tell her his grievance; 

Withoute cup he drank all his penance. 

He was despaired, nothing durst he say. 

Save in his songes somewhat would he wray* *betray 

His woe, as in a general complaining; 

He said, he lov'd, and was belov'd nothing. 

Of suche matter made he many lays, 

Songes, complaintes, roundels, virelays <8> 

How that he durste not his sorrow tell. 

But languished, as doth a Fury in hell; 

And die he must, he said, as did Echo 

For Narcissus, that durst not tell her woe. 

In other manner than ye hear me say. 

He durste not to her his woe bewray. 

Save that paraventure sometimes at dances. 

Where younge folke keep their observances. 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

It may well be he looked on her face 

In such a wise, as man that asketh grace, 

But nothing wiste she of his intent. 

Nath'less it happen'd, ere they thennes* went, *thence (from the 

Because that he was her neighebour, garden)* 

And was a man of worship and honour. 

And she had knowen him *of time yore,* *for a long time* 

They fell in speech, and forth aye more and more 

Unto his purpose drew Aurelius; 

And when he saw his time, he saide thus: 

Madam," quoth he, "by God that this world made. 

So that I wist it might your hearte glade,* *gladden 

I would, that day that your Arviragus 

Went over sea, that I, Aurelius, 

Had gone where I should never come again; 

For well I wot my service is in vain. 

My guerdon* is but bursting of mine heart. *reward 

Madame, rue upon my paine's smart. 

For with a word ye may me slay or save. 

Here at your feet God would that I were grave. 

I have now no leisure more to say: 

Have mercy, sweet, or you will *do me dey."* *cause me to die* 

She gan to look upon Aurelius; 

"Is this your will," quoth she, "and say ye thus? 

Ne'er erst,"* quoth she, "I wiste what ye meant: 

But now, Aurelius, I know your intent. 

By thilke* God that gave me soul and life. 

Never shall I be an untrue wife 

In word nor work, as far as I have wit; 

I will be his to whom that I am knit; 

Take this for fmal answer as of me." 

But after that *in play* thus saide she. 

"Aurelius," quoth she, "by high God above. 



'playfully, in jest* 

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Yet will I grante you to be your love 
(Since I you see so piteously complain); 
Looke, what day that endelong* Bretagne 
Ye remove all the rockes, stone by stone. 
That they not lette* ship nor boat to gon, 
I say, when ye have made this coast so clean 
Of rockes, that there is no stone seen. 
Then will I love you best of any man; 
Have here my troth, in all that ever I can; 
For well I wot that it shall ne'er betide. 
Let such folly out of your hearte glide. 
What dainty* should a man have in his life 
For to go love another manne's wife. 
That hath her body when that ever him liketh?" 
Aurelius full often sore siketh;* 
Is there none other grace in you?" quoth he, 
"No, by that Lord," quoth she, "that maked me. 
Woe was Aurelius when that he this heard. 
And with a sorrowful heart he thus answer 'd. 
"Madame, quoth he, "this were an impossible. 
Then must I die of sudden death horrible." 
And with that word he turned him anon. 


*from end to end of 


*value, pleasure 


Then came her other friends many a one. 

And in the alleys roamed up and down. 

And nothing wist of this conclusion. 

But suddenly began to revel new. 

Till that the brighte sun had lost his hue. 

For th' horizon had reft the sun his light 

(This is as much to say as it was night); 

And home they go in mirth and in solace; 

Save only wretch'd Aurelius, alas 

He to his house is gone with sorrowful heart. 

He said, he may not from his death astart.* 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Him seemed, that he felt his hearte cold. 

Up to the heav'n his handes gan he hold, 

And on his knees bare he set him down. 

And in his raving said his orisoun.* 

For very woe out of his wit he braid;* 

He wist not what he spake, but thus he said; 

With piteous heart his plaint hath he begun 

Unto the gods, and first unto the Sun. 

He said; "Apollo God and governour 

Of every plante, herbe, tree, and flower. 

That giv St, after thy declination. 

To each of them his time and his season. 

As thine herberow* changeth low and high; 

Lord Phoebus: cast thy merciable eye 

On wretched Aurelius, which that am but lorn.* 

Lo, lord, my lady hath my death y-sworn, 

Withoute guilt, but* thy benignity 

Upon my deadly heart have some pity. 

For well I wot. Lord Phoebus, if you lest,* 

Ye may me helpe, save my lady, best. 

Now vouchsafe, that I may you devise* 

How that I may be holp,* and in what wise. 

Your blissful sister, Lucina the sheen, <9> 

That of the sea is chief goddess and queen, — 

Though Neptunus have deity in the sea. 

Yet emperess above him is she; — 

Ye know well, lord, that, right as her desire 

Is to be quick'd* and lighted of your fire. 

For which she followeth you full busily. 

Right so the sea desireth naturally 

To follow her, as she that is goddess 

Both in the sea and rivers more and less. 

Wherefore, Lord Phoebus, this is my request. 

Do this miracle, or *do mine hearte brest;* 


*dwelling, situation 




*tell, explain 


*cause my heart 

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That flow, next at this opposition. 

Which in the sign shall be of the Lion, 

As praye her so great a flood to bring. 

That five fathom at least it overspring 

The highest rock in Armoric Bretagne, 

And let this flood endure yeares twain: 

Then certes to my lady may I say, 

"Holde your best," the rockes be away. 

Lord Phoebus, this miracle do for me. 

Pray her she go no faster course than ye; 

I say this, pray your sister that she go 

No faster course than ye these yeares two: 

Then shall she be even at full alway. 

And spring-flood laste bothe night and day. 

And *but she* vouchesafe in such mannere 

To grante me my sov'reign lady dear. 

Pray her to sink every rock adown 

Into her owen darke regioun 

Under the ground, where Pluto dwelleth in 

Or nevermore shall I my lady win. 

Thy temple in Delphos will I barefoot seek. 

Lord Phoebus! see the teares on my cheek 

And on my pain have some compassioun." 

And with that word in sorrow he fell down. 

And longe time he lay forth in a trance. 

His brother, which that knew of his penance,* 

Up caught him, and to bed he hath him brought. 

Despaired in this torment and this thought 

Let I this woeful creature lie; 

Choose he for me whe'er* he will live or die. 

to burst* 




Arviragus with health and great honour 
(As he that was of chivalry the flow'r) 
Is come home, and other worthy men. 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Oh, blissful art thou now, thou Dorigen! 

Thou hast thy lusty husband in thine arms. 

The freshe knight, the worthy man of arms. 

That loveth thee as his own hearte's life: 

*Nothing list him to be imaginatiP *he cared not to fancy* 

If any wight had spoke, while he was out. 

To her of love; he had of that no doubt;* *fear, suspicion 

He not intended* to no such mattere, *occupied himself with 

But danced, jousted, and made merry cheer. 

And thus in joy and bliss I let them dwell. 

And of the sick Aurelius will I tell 

In languor and in torment furious 

Two year and more lay wretch'd Aurelius, 

Ere any foot on earth he mighte gon; 

Nor comfort in this time had he none. 

Save of his brother, which that was a clerk.* *scholar 

He knew of all this woe and all this work; 

For to none other creature certain 

Of this matter he durst no worde sayn; 

Under his breast he bare it more secree 

Than e'er did Pamphilus for Galatee.<10> 

His breast was whole withoute for to seen. 

But in his heart aye was the arrow keen. 

And well ye know that of a sursanure < 1 1 > 

In surgery is perilous the cure. 

But* men might touch the arrow or come thereby. *except 

His brother wept and wailed privily. 

Till at the last him fell in remembrance. 

That while he was at Orleans < 12> in France, — 

As younge clerkes, that be likerous* — *eager 

To readen artes that be curious, 

Seeken in every *halk and every hern* *nook and corner* < 13 > 

Particular sciences for to learn, — 

He him remember'd, that upon a day 

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At Orleans in study a book he say* *saw 

Of magic natural, which his fellaw. 

That was that time a bachelor of law 

All* were he there to learn another craft, *though 

Had privily upon his desky-laft; 

Which book spake much of operations 

Touching the eight and-twenty mansions 

That longe to the Moon, and such folly 

As in our dayes is not worth a fly; 

For holy church's faith, in our believe,* *belief, creed 

Us suff 'reth none illusion to grieve. 

And when this book was in his remembrance 

Anon for joy his heart began to dance. 

And to himself he saide privily; 

"My brother shall be warish'd* hastily *cured 

For I am sicker* that there be sciences, *certain 

By which men make divers apparences. 

Such as these subtle tregetoures play. *tricksters <14> 

For oft at feaste's have I well heard say. 

That tregetours, within a halle large. 

Have made come in a water and a barge. 

And in the halle rowen up and down. 

Sometimes hath seemed come a grim lioun. 

And sometimes flowers spring as in a mead; 

Sometimes a vine, and grapes white and red; 

Sometimes a castle all of lime and stone; 

And, when them liked, voided* it anon: *vanished 

Thus seemed it to every manne's sight. 

Now then conclude I thus; if that I might 

At Orleans some olde fellow fmd. 

That hath these Moone's mansions in mind. 

Or other magic natural above. 

He should well make my brother have his love. 

For with an appearance a clerk* may make, *learned man 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

To manne's sight, that all the rockes blake 
Of Bretagne were voided* every one, 
And shippes by the brinke come and gon. 
And in such form endure a day or two; 
Then were my brother warish'd* of his woe. 
Then must she needes *holde her behest,* 
Or elles he shall shame her at the least." 
Why should I make a longer tale of this? 
Unto his brother's bed he comen is. 
And such comfort he gave him, for to gon 
To Orleans, that he upstart anon. 
And on his way forth-ward then is he fare,* 
In hope for to be lissed* of his care. 


*keep her promise* 

*eased of <15> 

When they were come almost to that city, 

*But if it were* a two furlong or three, *all but* 

A young clerk roaming by himself they met. 

Which that in Latin *thriftily them gret.* *greeted them 

And after that he said a wondrous thing; civilly* 

I know," quoth he, "the cause of your coming;" 

Aud ere they farther any foote went. 

He told them all that was in their intent. 

The Breton clerk him asked of fellaws 

The which he hadde known in olde daws,* *days 

And he answer'd him that they deade were. 

For which he wept full often many a tear. 

Down off his horse Aurelius light anon. 

And forth with this magician is be gone 

Home to his house, and made him well at ease; 

Them lacked no vitail* that might them please. *victuals, food 

So well-array 'd a house as there was one, 

Aurelius in his life saw never none. 

He shewed him, ere they went to suppere, 

Forestes, parkes, full of wilde deer. 

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There saw he hartes with their homes high. 

The greatest that were ever seen with eye. 

He saw of them an hundred slain with hounds. 

And some with arrows bleed of bitter wounds. 

He saw, when voided* were the wilde deer, *passed away 

These falconers upon a fair rivere. 

That with their hawkes have the heron slain. 

Then saw he knightes jousting in a plain. 

And after this he did him such pleasance. 

That he him shew'd his lady on a dance. 

In which himselfe danced, as him thought. 

And when this master, that this magic wrought. 

Saw it was time, he clapp'd his handes two. 

And farewell, all the revel is y-go.* *gone, removed 

And yet remov'd they never out of the house. 

While they saw all the sightes marvellous; 

But in his study, where his bookes be. 

They satte still, and no wight but they three. 

To him this master called his squier. 


And said him thus, "May we go to supper? 

Almost an hour it is, I undertake. 

Since I you bade our supper for to make. 

When that these worthy men wente with me 

Into my study, where my bookes be." 

"Sir," quoth this squier, "when it liketh you. 

It is all ready, though ye will right now." 

"Go we then sup," quoth he, "as for the best; 

These amorous folk some time must have rest." 

At after supper fell they in treaty 

What summe should this master's guerdon* be. 

To remove all the rockes of Bretagne, 

And eke from Gironde <16> to the mouth of Seine. 

He made it strange,* and swore, so God him save. 


*a matter of 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Less than a thousand pound he would not have, difficulty* 

*Nor gladly for that sum he would not gon.* *see note < 17>* 

Aurelius with blissful heart anon 

Answered thus; "Fie on a thousand pound! 

This wide world, which that men say is round, 

I would it give, if I were lord of it. 

This bargain is full-driv'n, for we be knit;* *agreed 

Ye shall be payed truly by my troth. 

But looke, for no negligence or sloth. 

Ye tarry us here no longer than to-morrow." 

"Nay," quoth the clerk, *"have here my faith to borrow"* *I pledge my 

To bed is gone Aurelius when him lest, faith on it* 

And well-nigh all that night he had his rest. 

What for his labour, and his hope of bliss. 

His woeful heart *of penance had a liss.* *had a respite 

from suffering* 
Upon the morrow, when that it was day. 
Unto Bretagne they took the righte way, 
Aurelius and this magician beside. 
And be descended where they would abide: 
And this was, as the bookes me remember. 
The colde frosty season of December. 

Phoebus wax'd old, and hued like latoun,* *brass 

That in his bote declinatioun 

Shone as the burned gold, with streames* bright; *beams 

But now in Capricorn adown he light. 
Where as he shone full pale, I dare well sayn. 
The bitter frostes, with the sleet and rain. 

Destroyed have the green in every yard. *courtyard, garden 

Janus sits by the fire with double beard. 
And drinketh of his bugle horn the wine: 
Before him stands the brawn of tusked swine 
And "nowel"* crieth every lusty man *Noel < 18> 

Aurelius, in all that ev'r he can. 

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Did to his master cheer and reverence. 

And prayed him to do his diligence 

To bringe him out of his paines smart. 

Or with a sword that he would slit his heart. 

This subtle clerk such ruth* had on this man, *pity 

That night and day he sped him, that he can. 

To wait a time of his conclusion; 

This is to say, to make illusion. 

By such an appearance of jugglery 

(I know no termes of astrology). 

That she and every wight should ween and say. 

That of Bretagne the rockes were away. 

Or else they were sunken under ground. 

So at the last he hath a time found 

To make his japes* and his wretchedness *tricks 

Of such a *superstitious cursedness.* *detestable villainy* 

His tables Toletanes < 19> forth he brought. 

Full well corrected, that there lacked nought. 

Neither his collect, nor his expanse years. 

Neither his rootes, nor his other gears. 

As be his centres, and his arguments. 

And his proportional convenients 

For his equations in everything. 

And by his eighte spheres in his working. 

He knew full well how far Alnath <20> was shove 

From the head of that fix'd Aries above. 

That in the ninthe sphere consider'd is. 

Full subtilly he calcul'd all this. 

When he had found his firste mansion. 

He knew the remnant by proportion; 

And knew the rising of his moone well. 

And in whose face, and term, and every deal; 

And knew full well the moone's mansion 

Accordant to his operation; 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And knew also his other observances, 

For such illusions and such meschances,* 

As heathen folk used in thilke days. 

For which no longer made he delays; 

But through his magic, for a day or tway, <21> 

It seemed all the rockes were away 

*wicked devices 

Aurelius, which yet despaired is 

Whe'er* he shall have his love, or fare amiss. 

Awaited night and day on this miracle: 

And when he knew that there was none obstacle. 

That voided* were these rockes every one, 

Down at his master's feet he fell anon. 

And said; "I, woeful wretch'd Aurelius, 

Thank you, my Lord, and lady mine Venus, 

That me have holpen from my cares cold." 

And to the temple his way forth hath he hold. 

Where as he knew he should his lady see. 

And when he saw his time, anon right he 

With dreadful* heart and with full humble cheer 

Saluteth hath his sovereign lady dear. 

"My rightful Lady," quoth this woeful man, 

"Whom I most dread, and love as I best can. 

And lothest were of all this world displease, 

Were't not that I for you have such disease,* 

That I must die here at your foot anon. 

Nought would I tell how me is woebegone. 

But certes either must I die or plain;* 

Ye slay me guilteless for very pain. 

But of my death though that ye have no ruth. 

Advise you, ere that ye break your truth: 

Repente you, for thilke God above. 

Ere ye me slay because that I you love. 

For, Madame, well ye wot what ye have hight; 



*fearful **mien 

distress, affliction 



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Not that I challenge anything of right 

Of you, my sovereign lady, but of grace: 

But in a garden yond', in such a place. 

Ye wot right well what ye behighte* me, *promised 

And in mine hand your trothe plighted ye. 

To love me best; God wot ye saide so. 

Albeit that I unworthy am thereto; 

Madame, I speak it for th' honour of you. 

More than to save my hearte's life right now; 

I have done so as ye commanded me. 

And if ye vouchesafe, ye may go see. 

Do as you list, have your behest in mind. 

For, quick or dead, right there ye shall me fmd; 

In you hes all to *do me live or dey;* *cause me to 

But well I wot the rockes be away." live or die* 


He took his leave, and she astonish'd stood; 

In all her face was not one drop of blood: 

She never ween'd t'have come in such a trap. 

"Alas!" quoth she, "that ever this should hap! 

For ween'd I ne'er, by possibility. 

That such a monster or marvail might be; 

It is against the process of nature." 

And home she went a sorrowful creature; 

For very fear unnethes* may she go. *scarcely 

She weeped, wailed, all a day or two. 

And swooned, that it ruthe was to see: 

But why it was, to no wight tolde she. 

For out of town was gone Arviragus. 

But to herself she spake, and saide thus. 

With face pale, and full sorrowful cheer. 

In her complaint, as ye shall after hear. 

"Alas!" quoth she, "on thee. Fortune, I plain,* *complain 

That unware hast me wrapped in thy chain. 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

From which to scape, wot I no succour, 

Save only death, or elles dishonour; 

One of these two behoveth me to choose. 

But natheless, yet had I lever* lose *sooner, rather 

My life, than of my body have shame. 

Or know myselfe false, or lose my name; 

And with my death *I may be quit y-wis.* *I may certainly purchase 

Hath there not many a noble wife, ere this, my exemption* 

And many a maiden, slain herself, alas! 

Rather than with her body do trespass? 

Yes, certes; lo, these stories bear witness. <22> 

When thirty tyrants full of cursedness* *wickedness 

Had slain Phidon in Athens at the feast. 

They commanded his daughters to arrest. 

And bringe them before them, in despite. 

All naked, to fulfd their foul delight; 

And in their father's blood they made them dance 

Upon the pavement, — God give them mischance. 

For which these woeful maidens, full of dread. 

Rather than they would lose their maidenhead. 

They privily *be start* into a well, *suddenly leaped 

And drowned themselves, as the bookes tell. 

They of Messene let inquire and seek 

Of Lacedaemon fifty maidens eke. 

On which they woulde do their lechery: 

But there was none of all that company 

That was not slain, and with a glad intent 

Chose rather for to die, than to assent 

To be oppressed* of her maidenhead. *forcibly bereft 

Why should I then to dien be in dread? 

Lo, eke the tyrant Aristoclides, 

That lov'd a maiden hight Stimphalides, 

When that her father slain was on a night. 

Unto Diana's temple went she right. 

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And hent* the image in her handes two. 
From which image she woulde never go; 
No wight her handes might off it arace,* 
Till she was slain right in the selfe* place. 
Now since that maidens hadde such despite 
To be defouled with man's foul delight. 
Well ought a wife rather herself to sle,* 
Than be defouled, as it thinketh me. 
What shall I say of Hasdrubale's wife. 
That at Carthage bereft herself of life? 
For, when she saw the Romans win the town. 
She took her children all, and skipt adown 
Into the fire, and rather chose to die. 
Than any Roman did her villainy. 
Hath not Lucretia slain herself, alas! 
At Rome, when that she oppressed* was 
Of Tarquin? for her thought it was a shame 
To live, when she hadde lost her name. 
The seven maidens of Milesie also 
Have slain themselves for very dread and woe. 
Rather than folk of Gaul them should oppress. 
More than a thousand stories, as I guess. 
Could I now tell as touching this mattere. 
When Abradate was slain, his wife so dear <23> 
Herselfe slew, and let her blood to glide 
In Abradate's woundes, deep and wide. 
And said, 'My body at the leaste way 
There shall no wight defoul, if that I may' 
Why should I more examples hereof sayn? 
Since that so many have themselves slain. 
Well rather than they would defouled be, 
I will conclude that it is bet* for me 
To slay myself, than be defouled thus. 
I will be true unto Arviragus, 

*caught, clasped 

*pluck away by force 





Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Or elles slay myself in some mannere, 

As did Demotione's daughter dear, 

Because she woulde not defouled be. 

O Sedasus, it is full great pity 

To reade how thy daughters died, alas! 

That slew themselves *for suche manner cas.* 

As great a pity was it, or well more, 

TheTheban maiden, that for Nicanor 

Herselfe slew, right for such manner woe. 

Another Theban maiden did right so; 

For one of Macedon had her oppress'd. 

She with her death her maidenhead redress'd.* 

What shall I say of Niceratus' wife. 

That for such case bereft herself her life? 

How true was eke to Alcibiades 

His love, that for to dien rather chese,* 

Than for to suffer his body unburied be? 

Lo, what a wife was Alceste?" quoth she. 

"What saith Homer of good Penelope? 

All Greece knoweth of her chastity. 

Pardie, of Laedamia is written thus. 

That when at Troy was slain Protesilaus, <24> 

No longer would she live after his day. 

The same of noble Porcia tell I may; 

Withoute Brutus coulde she not live. 

To whom she did all whole her hearte give. <25> 

The perfect wifehood of Artemisie <26> 

Honoured is throughout all Barbaric. 

OTeuta <27> queen, thy wifely chastity 

To alle wives may a mirror be." <28> 

*in circumstances of 
the same kind* 



Thus plained Dorigen a day or tway. 
Purposing ever that she woulde dey;* 
But natheless upon the thirde night 


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Home came Arviragus, the worthy knight. 

And asked her why that she wept so sore. 

And she gan weepen ever longer more. 

"Alas," quoth she, "that ever I was born! 

Thus have I said," quoth she; "thus have I sworn. 

And told him all, as ye have heard before: 

It needeth not rehearse it you no more. 

This husband with glad cheer,* in friendly wise. 

Answer 'd and said, as I shall you devise.* 

"Is there aught elles, Dorigen, but this?" 

"Nay, nay," quoth she, "God help me so, *as wis* 

This is too much, an* it were Godde's will." 

"Yea, wife," quoth he, "let sleepe what is still. 

It may be well par Venture yet to-day. 

Ye shall your trothe holde, by my fay. 

For, God so wisly* have mercy on me, 

*I had well lever sticked for to be,* 

For very love which I to you have. 

But if ye should your trothe keep and save. 

Truth is the highest thing that man may keep." 

But with that word he burst anon to weep. 

And said; "I you forbid, on pain of death. 

That never, while you lasteth life or breath. 

To no wight tell ye this misaventure; 

As I may best, I will my woe endure. 

Nor make no countenance of heaviness. 

That folk of you may deeme harm, or guess." 

And forth he call'd a squier and a maid. 

"Go forth anon with Dorigen," he said, 

"And bringe her to such a place anon." 

They take their leave, and on their way they gon: 

But they not wiste why she thither went; 

He would to no wight telle his intent. 



I had rather be slain* 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

This squier, which that hight Aurelius, 

On Dorigen that was so amorous, 

Of aventure happened her to meet 

Amid the town, right in the quickest* street. 

As she was bound* to go the way forthright 

Toward the garden, there as she had hight.* 

And he was to the garden-ward also; 

For well he spied when she woulde go 

Out of her house, to any manner place; 

But thus they met, of aventure or grace. 

And he saluted her with glad intent. 

And asked of her whitherward she went. 

And she answered, half as she were mad, 

"Unto the garden, as my husband bade. 

My trothe for to hold, alas! alas!" 

Aurelius gan to wonder on this case. 

And in his heart had great compassion 

Of her, and of her lamentation. 

And of Arviragus, the worthy knight. 

That bade her hold all that she hadde hight; 

So loth him was his wife should break her truth* 

And in his heart he caught of it great ruth,* 

Considering the best on every side, 

*That from his lust yet were him lever abide,* 

Than do so high a churlish wretchedness* 

Against franchise,* and alle gentleness; 

For which in fewe words he saide thus; 

"Madame, say to your lord Arviragus, 

That since I see the greate gentleness 

Of him, and eke I see well your distress. 

That him were lever* have shame (and that were 

Than ye to me should breake thus your truth, 

I had well lever aye* to suffer woe. 

Than to depart* the love betwixt you two. 


■"prepared, going <29> 


*troth, pledged word 

*seenote <30>* 


ruth)** *rather **pity 

*sunder, split up 

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I you release, Madame, into your bond. 

Quit ev'ry surement* and ev'ry bond. 

That ye have made to me as herebeforn. 

Since thilke time that ye were born. 

Have here my truth, I shall you ne'er repreve* 

*Of no behest;* and here I take my leave. 

As of the truest and the beste wife 

That ever yet I knew in all my life. 

But every wife beware of her behest; 

On Dorigen remember at the least. 

Thus can a squier do a gentle deed. 

As well as can a knight, withoute drede."* 


*of no (breach of) 


She thanked him upon her knees bare. 
And home unto her husband is she fare,* 
And told him all, as ye have hearde said; 
And, truste me, he was so *well apaid,* 
That it were impossible me to write. 
Why should I longer of this case indite? 
Arviragus and Dorigen his wife 
In sov'reign blisse ledde forth their life; 
Ne'er after was there anger them between; 
He cherish'd her as though she were a queen. 
And she was to him true for evermore; 
Of these two folk ye get of me no more. 


Aurelius, that his cost had *all forlorn,* *utterly lost* 

Cursed the time that ever he was born. 

"Alas!" quoth he, "alas that I behight* *promised 

Of pured* gold a thousand pound of weight *refmed 

To this philosopher! how shall I do? 

I see no more, but that I am fordo.* *ruined, undone 

Mine heritage must I needes sell. 

And be a beggar; here I will not dwell. 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

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And shamen all my kindred in this place, 

But* I of him may gette better grace. *unless 

But natheless I will of him assay 

At certain dayes year by year to pay, 

And thank him of his greate courtesy 

My trothe will I keep, I will not he." 

With hearte sore he went unto his coffer. 

And broughte gold unto this philosopher. 

The value of five hundred pound, I guess. 

And him beseeched, of his gentleness. 

To grant him *dayes oP the remenant; *time to pay up* 

And said; "Master, I dare well make avaunt, 

I failed never of my truth as yet. 

For sickerly my debte shall be quit 

Towardes you how so that e'er I fare 

To go a-begging in my kirtle bare: 

But would ye vouchesafe, upon surety. 

Two year, or three, for to respite me. 

Then were I well, for elles must I sell 

Mine heritage; there is no more to tell." 

This philosopher soberly* answer 'd, *gravely 

And saide thus, when he these wordes heard; 

"Have I not holden covenant to thee?" 

"Yes, certes, well and truely," quoth he. 

"Hast thou not had thy lady as thee liked?" 

"No, no," quoth he, and sorrowfully siked.* 

"What was the cause? tell me if thou can." 

Aurelius his tale anon began. 

And told him all as ye have heard before. 

It needeth not to you rehearse it more. 

He said, "Arviragus of gentleness 

Had lever* die in sorrow and distress, *rather 

Than that his wife were of her trothe false." 



The sorrow of Dorigen he told him als',* 

How loth her was to be a wicked wife. 

And that she lever had lost that day her life; 

And that her troth she swore through innocence; 

She ne'er erst* had heard speak of apparence** *before **see note < 3 1 > 

That made me have of her so great pity. 

And right as freely as he sent her to me. 

As freely sent I her to him again: 

This is all and some, there is no more to sayn." 

The philosopher answer 'd; "Leve* brother, *dear 

Evereach of you did gently to the other; 

Thou art a squier, and he is a knight. 

But God forbidde, for his blissful might. 

But if a clerk could do a gentle deed 

As well as any of you, it is no drede* *doubt 

Sir, I release thee thy thousand pound. 

As thou right now were crept out of the ground. 

Nor ever ere now haddest knowen me. 

For, Sir, I will not take a penny of thee 

For all my craft, nor naught for my travail;* *labour, pains 

Thou hast y-payed well for my vitaille; 

It is enough; and farewell, have good day." 

And took his horse, and forth he went his way. 

Lordings, this question would I aske now. 

Which was the moste free,* as thinketh you? *generous <32> 

Now telle me, ere that ye farther wend. 

I can* no more, my tale is at an end. *know, can tell 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

^Ae QDoefO'/f^ i I:ya/e. 

The Prologue. 

["YEA, let that passe," quoth our Host, "as now. 

Sir Doctor of Physik, I praye you. 

Tell us a tale of some honest mattere." 

"It shall be done, if that ye will it hear," 

Said this Doctor; and his tale gan anon. 

"Now, good men," quoth he, "hearken everyone."] 

The Tale. 

There was, as telleth Titus Livius, < 1 > 
A knight, that called was Virginius, 
Full filled of honour and worthiness. 
And strong of friendes, and of great richess. 
This knight one daughter hadde by his wife; 
No children had he more in all his life. 
Fair was this maid in excellent beauty 
Aboven ev'ry wight that man may see: 
For nature had with sov'reign diligence 
Y-formed her in so great excellence. 
As though she woulde say, "Lo, I, Nature, 
Thus can I form and paint a creature. 
When that me list; who can me counterfeit? 

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Pygmalion? not though he aye forge and beat. 

Or grave or painte: for I dare well sayn, 

Apelles, Zeuxis, shoulde work in vain. 

Either to grave, or paint, or forge, or beat. 

If they presumed me to counterfeit. 

For he that is the former principal. 

Hath made me his vicar-general 

To form and painten earthly creatures 

Right as me list, and all thing in my cure* is. 

Under the moone, that may wane and wax. 

And for my work right nothing will I ax* 

My lord and I be full of one accord. 

I made her to the worship* of my lord; 

So do I all mine other creatures. 

What colour that they have, or what figures." 

Thus seemeth me that Nature woulde say. 


This maiden was of age twelve year and tway,* 

In which that Nature hadde such delight. 

For right as she can paint a lily white. 

And red a rose, right with such painture 

She painted had this noble creature. 

Ere she was born, upon her limbes free. 

Where as by right such colours shoulde be: 

And Phoebus dyed had her tresses great. 

Like to the streames* of his burned heat. 

And if that excellent was her beauty, 

A thousand-fold more virtuous was she. 

In her there lacked no condition. 

That is to praise, as by discretion. 

As well in ghost* as body chaste was she: 

For which she flower'd in virginity. 

With all humility and abstinence. 

With alle temperance and patience. 



*beams, rays 

*mind, spirit 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

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With measure* eke of bearing and array. *moderation 

Discreet she was in answering alway, 

Though she were wise as Pallas, dare I sayn; 

Her faconde* eke full womanly and plain, *speech <2> 

No counterfeited termes hadde she 

To seeme wise; but after her degree 

She spake, and all her worde's more and less 

Sounding in virtue and in gentleness. 

Shamefast she was in maiden's shamefastness. 

Constant in heart, and ever *in business* *diligent, eager* 

To drive her out of idle sluggardy: 

Bacchus had of her mouth right no mast'ry. 

For wine and slothe <3> do Venus increase. 

As men in fire will casten oil and grease. 

And of her owen virtue, unconstrain'd. 

She had herself full often sicky-feign'd. 

For that she woulde flee the company. 

Where likely was to treaten of folly. 

As is at feasts, at revels, and at dances. 

That be occasions of dalliances. 

Such thinges make children for to be 

Too soone ripe and bold, as men may see. 

Which is full perilous, and hath been yore;* *of old 

For all too soone may she learne lore 

Of boldeness, when that she is a wife. 

And have forsaken fully such meschance* 
For evermore; therefore, for Christe's sake. 
To teach them virtue look that ye not slake, 
A thief of venison, that hath forlaft* 
His lik'rousness,* and all his olde craft. 
Can keep a forest best of any man; 
Now keep them well, for if ye will ye can. 
Look well, that ye unto no vice assent. 
Lest ye be damned for your wick'* intent. 
For whoso doth, a traitor is certain; 
And take keep* of that I shall you sayn; 
Of alle treason, sov'reign pestilence 
Is when a wight betrayeth innocence. 
Ye fathers, and ye mothers eke also. 
Though ye have children, be it one or mo'. 
Yours is the charge of all their surveyance,* 
While that they be under your governance. 
Beware, that by example of your living. 
Or by your negligence in chastising. 
That they not perish for I dare well say. 
If that they do, ye shall it dear abeye.* 
Under a shepherd soft and negligent 
The wolf hath many a sheep and lamb to-rent. 
Suffice this example now as here. 
For I must turn again to my mattere. 

*wickedness <4> 

*be slack, fail 
*forsaken, left 

*wicked, evil 



pay for, suffer for 

And ye mistresses,* in your olde life *governesses, duennas 

That lordes' daughters have in governance. 

Take not of my wordes displeasance 

Thinke that ye be set in governings 

Of lordes' daughters only for two things; 

Either for ye have kept your honesty. 

Or else for ye have fallen in frailty 

And knowe well enough the olde dance. 

This maid, of which I tell my tale express. 
She kept herself, her needed no mistress; 
For in her living maidens mighte read. 
As in a book, ev'ry good word and deed 
That longeth to a maiden virtuous; 
She was so prudent and so bounteous. 
For which the fame out sprang on every side 
Both of her beauty and her bounte* wide: 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

That through the land they praised her each one 

That loved virtue, save envy alone, 

That sorry is of other manne's weal. 

And glad is of his sorrow and unheal* — *misfortune 

The Doctor maketh this descriptioun. — <5> 

This maiden on a day went in the town 

Toward a temple, with her mother dear. 

As is of younge maidens the mannere. 

Now was there then a justice in that town. 

That governor was of that regioun: 

And so befell, this judge his eyen cast 

Upon this maid, avising* her full fast, *observing 

As she came forth by where this judge stood; 

Anon his hearte changed and his mood. 

So was he caught with beauty of this maid 

And to himself full privily he said, 

"This maiden shall be mine *for any man."* *despite what any 

Anon the fiend into his hearte ran, man may do* 

And taught him suddenly, that he by sleight 

This maiden to his purpose winne might. 

For certes, by no force, nor by no meed,* *bribe, reward 

Him thought he was not able for to speed; 

For she was strong of friendes, and eke she 

Confirmed was in such sov'reign bounte. 

That well he wist he might her never win. 

As for to make her with her body sin. 

For which, with great deliberatioun. 

He sent after a clerk <6> was in the town. 

The which he knew for subtle and for bold. 

This judge unto this clerk his tale told 

In secret wise, and made him to assure 

He shoulde tell it to no creature. 

And if he did, he shoulde lose his head. 

And when assented was this cursed rede,* *counsel, plot 

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Glad was the judge, and made him greate cheer. 

And gave him giftes precious and dear. 

When shapen* was all their conspiracy 

From point to point, how that his lechery 

Performed shoulde be full subtilly. 

As ye shall hear it after openly. 

Home went this clerk, that highte Claudius. 

This false judge, that highte Appius, — 

(So was his name, for it is no fable. 

But knowen for a storial* thing notable; *historical, authentic 

The sentence* of it sooth** is out of doubt); — *account **true 

This false judge went now fast about 

To hasten his delight all that he may. 

And so befell, soon after on a day. 

This false judge, as telleth us the story. 

As he was wont, sat in his consistory. 

And gave his doomes* upon sundry case'; *judgments 

This false clerk came forth *a full great pace,* *in haste 

And saide; Lord, if that it be your will. 

As do me right upon this piteous bill,* *petition 

In which I plain upon Virginius. 

And if that he will say it is not thus, 

I will it prove, and finde good witness. 

That sooth is what my bille will express." 

The judge answer 'd, "Of this, in his absence, 

I may not give definitive sentence. 

Let do* him call, and I will gladly hear; *cause 

Thou shalt have alle right, and no wrong here." 

Virginius came to weet* the judge's will, *know, learn 

And right anon was read this cursed bill; 

The sentence of it was as ye shall hear 

"To you, my lord. Sir Appius so clear, 

Sheweth your poore servant Claudius, 

How that a knight called Virginius, 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Against the law, against all equity, 
Holdeth, express against the will of me. 
My servant, which that is my thrall* by right. 
Which from my house was stolen on a night. 
While that she was full young; I will it preve* 
By witness, lord, so that it you *not grieve;* 
She is his daughter not, what so he say 
Wherefore to you, my lord the judge, I pray. 
Yield me my thrall, if that it be your will." 
Lo, this was all the sentence of the bill. 
Virginius gan upon the clerk behold; 
But hastily, ere he his tale told. 
And would have proved it, as should a knight. 
And eke by witnessing of many a wight. 
That all was false that said his adversary. 
This cursed judge would no longer tarry. 
Nor hear a word more of Virginius, 
But gave his judgement, and saide thus: 
"I deem* anon this clerk his servant have; 
Thou shalt no longer in thy house her save. 
Go, bring her forth, and put her in our ward 
The clerk shall have his thrall: thus I award." 


*be not displeasing* 

^pronounce, determine 

And when this worthy knight, Virginius, 

Through sentence of this justice Appius, 

Muste by force his deare daughter give 

Unto the judge, in lechery to live. 

He went him home, and sat him in his hall. 

And let anon his deare daughter call; 

And with a face dead as ashes cold 

Upon her humble face he gan behold. 

With father's pity sticking* through his heart. 

All* would he from his purpose not convert.** 

"Daughter," quoth he, "Virginia by name. 

*although **turn aside 

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There be two wayes, either death or shame. 

That thou must suffer, — alas that I was bore!* *born 

For never thou deservedest wherefore 

To dien with a sword or with a knife, 

O deare daughter, ender of my life. 

Whom I have foster'd up with such pleasance 

That thou were ne'er out of my remembrance; 

O daughter, which that art my laste woe. 

And in this life my laste joy also, 

O gem of chastity, in patience 

Take thou thy death, for this is my sentence: 

For love and not for hate thou must be dead; 

My piteous hand must smiten off thine head. 

Alas, that ever Appius thee say!* *saw 

Thus hath he falselyjudged thee to-day." 

And told her all the case, as ye before 

Have heard; it needeth not to tell it more. 


"O mercy, deare father," quoth the maid. 
And with that word she both her armes laid 
About his neck, as she was wont to do, 
(The teares burst out of her eyen two). 
And said, "O goode father, shall I die? 
Is there no grace? is there no remedy?" 
"No, certes, deare daughter mine," quoth he. 
"Then give me leisure, father mine, quoth she, 
"My death for to complain* a little space 
For, pardie, Jephthah gave his daughter grace 
For to complain, ere he her slew, alas! <7> 
And, God it wot, nothing was her trespass,* 
But for she ran her father first to see. 
To welcome him with great solemnity." 
And with that word she fell a-swoon anon; 
And after, when her swooning was y-gone. 




Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

She rose up, and unto her father said: 
"Blessed be God, that I shall die a maid. 
Give me my death, ere that I have shame; 
Do with your child your will, in Godde's name." 
And with that word she prayed him full oft 
That with his sword he woulde smite her soft; 
And with that word, a-swoon again she fell. 
Her father, with full sorrowful heart and fell,* 
Her head off smote, and by the top it hent,* 
And to the judge he went it to present. 
As he sat yet in doom* in consistory. 

*stern, cruel 


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The worm of conscience may agrise* frighten, horrify 

Of wicked life, though it so privy be. 

That no man knows thereof, save God and he; 

For be he lewed* man or elles lear'd,** *ignorant **learned 

He knows not how soon he shall be afear'd; 

Therefore I rede* you this counsel take, *advise 

Forsake sin, ere sinne you forsake. 


And when the judge it saw, as saith the story. 

He bade to take him, and to hang him fast. 

But right anon a thousand people *in thrast* 

To save the knight, for ruth and for pity 

For knowen was the false iniquity. 

The people anon had suspect* in this thing. 

By manner of the clerke's challenging. 

That it was by th'assent of Appius; 

They wiste well that he was lecherous. 

For which unto this Appius they gon. 

And cast him in a prison right anon. 

Where as he slew himself: and Claudius, 

That servant was unto this Appius, 

Was doomed for to hang upon a tree; 

But that Virginius, of his pity. 

So prayed for him, that he was exil'd; 

And elles certes had he been beguil'd;* 

The remenant were hanged, more and less. 

That were consenting to this cursedness.* 

Here men may see how sin hath his merite:* 

Beware, for no man knows how God will smite 

In no degree, nor in which manner wise 

*rushed in* 


*see note <8> 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

me &6m^nei(^'6 t:ya/e. 

The Prologue. 

OUR Hoste gan to swear as he were wood; 

"Harow!" quoth he, "by nailes and by blood, < 1 > 

This was a cursed thief, a false justice. 

As shameful death as hearte can devise 

Come to these judges and their advoca's.* *advocates, counsellors 

Algate* this sely** maid is slain, alas! *nevertheless **innocent 

Alas! too deare bought she her beauty 

Wherefore I say, that all day man may see 

That giftes of fortune and of nature 

Be cause of death to many a creature. 

Her beauty was her death, I dare well sayn; 

Alas! so piteously as she was slain. 

[Of bothe giftes, that I speak of now 

Men have full often more harm than prow,*] *profit 

But truely, mine owen master dear. 

This was a piteous tale for to hear; 

But natheless, pass over; 'tis *no force.* 

I pray to God to save thy gentle corse,* 

And eke thine urinals, and thyjordans. 

Thine Hippocras, and eke thy Galliens, <2> 

And every boist* full of thy lectuary, 

God bless them, and our lady Sainte Mary. 

So may I the',* thou art a proper man, *thrive 

no matter 

*box <3> 

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And like a prelate, by Saint Ronian; 

Said I not well? Can I not speak *in term?* 

But well I wot thou dost* mine heart to erme,* 

That I have almost caught a cardiacle:* 

By corpus Domini <6>, but* I have triacle,** 

Or else a draught of moist and corny <7> ale. 

Or but* I hear anon a merry tale. 

Mine heart is brost* for pity of this maid. 

Thou *bel ami,* thou Pardoner," he said, 

"Tell us some mirth of japes* right anon." 

"It shall be done," quoth he, "by Saint Ronion. 

But first," quoth he, "here at this ale-stake* 

I will both drink, and biten on a cake." 

But right anon the gentles gan to cry, 

"Nay, let him tell us of no ribaldry. 

Tell us some moral thing, that we may lear* 

Some wit,* and thenne will we gladly hear." 

"I grant y-wis,"* quoth he; "but I must think 

Upon some honest thing while that I drink." 

*in set form* 
*makest **grieve<4> 
*heartache <5> 
*unless **a remedy 

*burst, broken 
*good friend* 

■"ale-house sign <8> 

*wisdom, sense 

The Tale. 

Lordings (quoth he), in churche when I preach. 

I paine me to have an hautein* speech. 
And ring it out, as round as doth a bell. 
For I know all by rote that I tell. 
My theme is always one, and ever was; 
Radix malorum est cupiditas.<3> 
First I pronounce whence that I come. 
And then my bulles shew I all and some; 
Our liege lorde's seal on my patent. 
That shew I first, *my body to warrent,* 
That no man be so hardy, priest nor clerk. 

*take pains **loud <2> 

*for the protection 
of my person* 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Me to disturb of Christe's holy werk. 
And after that then tell I forth my tales. 
Bulles of popes, and of cardinales, 
Of patriarchs, and of bishops I shew. 
And in Latin I speak a wordes few. 
To savour with my predication. 
And for to stir men to devotion 
Then show I forth my longe crystal stones, 
Y-crammed fall of cloutes* and of bones; 
Relics they be, as *weene they* each one. ^ 
Then have I in latoun* a shoulder-bone 
Which that was of a holy Jewe's sheep. 
"Good men," say I, "take of my wordes keep;' 
If that this bone be wash'd in any well. 
If cow, or calf, or sheep, or oxe swell. 
That any worm hath eat, or worm y-stung. 
Take water of that well, and wash his tongue. 
And it is whole anon; and farthermore 
Of pockes, and of scab, and every sore 
Shall every sheep be whole, that of this well 
Drinketh a draught; take keep* of that I tell. 

*rags, fragments 
as my listeners think* 



"If that the goodman, that the beastes oweth,* *owneth 

Will every week, ere that the cock him croweth. 

Fasting, y-drinken of this well a draught. 

As thilke holy Jew our elders taught. 

His beastes and his store shall multiply. 

And, Sirs, also it healeth jealousy; 

For though a man be fall'n in jealous rage. 

Let make with this water his pottage. 

And never shall he more his wife mistrist,* *mistrust 

*Though he the sooth of her defaulte wist;* *though he truly 

All had she taken priestes two or three. <4> knew her sin* 

Here is a mittain* eke, that ye may see; *glove, mitten 

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He that his hand will put in this mittain. 

He shall have multiplying of his grain. 

When he hath sowen, be it wheat or oats. 

So that he offer pence, or elles groats. 

And, men and women, one thing warn I you; 

If any wight be in this churche now 

That hath done sin horrible, so that he 

Dare not for shame of it y-shriven* be; *confessed 

Or any woman, be she young or old. 

That hath y-made her husband cokewold,* *cuckold 

Such folk shall have no power nor no grace 

To offer to my relics in this place. 

And whoso fmdeth him out of such blame. 

He will come up and offer in God's name; 

And I assoil* him by the authority *absolve 

Which that by bull y-granted was to me." 


By this gaud* have I wonne year by year *jest, trick 

A hundred marks, since I was pardonere. 

I stande like a clerk in my pulpit. 

And when the lewed* people down is set, *ignorant 

I preache so as ye have heard before. 

And telle them a hundred japes* more. *jests, deceits 

Then pain I me to stretche forth my neck. 

And east and west upon the people I beck. 

As doth a dove, sitting on a bern;* *barn 

My handes and my tongue go so yern,* *briskly 

That it is joy to see my business. 

Of avarice and of such cursedness* *wickedness 

Is all my preaching, for to make them free 

To give their pence, and namely* unto me. *especially 

For mine intent is not but for to win. 

And nothing for correction of sin. 

I recke never, when that they be buried. 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Though that their soules go a blackburied.<5> 

For certes *many a predication *preaching is often inspired 

Cometh oft-time of evil intention;* by evil motives* 

Some for pleasance of folk, and flattery, 

To be advanced by hypocrisy; 

And some for vainglory, and some for hate. 

For, when I dare not otherwise debate. 

Then will I sting him with my tongue smart* *sharply 

In preaching, so that he shall not astart* *escape 

To be defamed falsely, if that he 

Hath trespass'd* to my brethren or to me. *offended 

For, though I telle not his proper name. 

Men shall well knowe that it is the same 

By signes, and by other circumstances. 

Thus *quite I* folk that do us displeasances: *I am revenged on* 

Thus spit I out my venom, under hue 

Of holiness, to seem holy and true. 

But, shortly mine intent I will devise, 

I preach of nothing but of covetise. 

Therefore my theme is yet, and ever was, — 

Radix malorum est cupiditas. <3> 

Thus can I preach against the same vice 

Which that I use, and that is avarice. 

But though myself be guilty in that sin. 

Yet can I maken other folk to twin* *depart 

From avarice, and sore them repent. 

But that is not my principal intent; 

I preache nothing but for covetise. 

Of this mattere it ought enough suffice. 

Then tell I them examples many a one. 

Of olde stories longe time gone; 

For lewed* people love tales old; *unlearned 

Such thinges can they well report and hold. 

What? trowe ye, that whiles I may preach 

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And winne gold and silver for* I teach, *because 

That I will live in p overt' wilfully? 

Nay, nay, I thought it never truely. 

For I will preach and beg in sundry lands; 

I will not do no labour with mine hands. 

Nor make baskets for to live thereby. 

Because I will not beggen idlely 

I will none of the apostles counterfeit;* *imitate (in poverty) 

I will have money, wool, and cheese, and wheat. 

All* were it given of the poorest page, *even if 

Or of the pooreste widow in a village: 

All should her children sterve* for famine. *die 

Nay, I will drink the liquor of the vine. 

And have a jolly wench in every town. 

But hearken, lordings, in conclusioun; 

Your liking is, that I shall tell a tale 

Now I have drunk a draught of corny ale. 

By God, I hope I shall you tell a thing 

That shall by reason be to your liking; 

For though myself be a full vicious man, 

A moral tale yet I you telle can. 

Which I am wont to preache, for to win. 

Now hold your peace, my tale I will begin. 

In Flanders whilom was a company 

Of younge folkes, that haunted folly. 

As riot, hazard, stewes,* and taverns; *brothels 

Where as with lutes, harpes, and giterns,* *guitars 

They dance and play at dice both day and night. 

And eat also, and drink over their might; 

Through which they do the devil sacrifice 

Within the devil's temple, in cursed wise. 

By superfluity abominable. 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Their oathes be so great and so damnable, 

That it is grisly* for to hear them swear. *dreadful <6> 

Our blissful Lorde's body they to-tear;* *tore to pieces <7> 

Them thought the Jewes rent him not enough, 

And each of them at other's sinne lough.* *laughed 

And right anon in come tombesteres <8> 

Fetis* and small, and younge fruitesteres.** *dainty **fruit-girls 

Singers with harpes, baudes,* waferers,** *revellers **cake-sellers 

Which be the very devil's officers. 

To kindle and blow the fire of lechery. 

That is annexed unto gluttony. 

The Holy Writ take I to my witness. 

That luxury is in wine and drunkenness. <9> 

Lo, how that drunken Lot unkindely* *unnaturally 

Layby his daughters two unwittingly. 

So drunk he was he knew not what he wrought. 

Herodes, who so well the stories sought, <10> 

When he of wine replete was at his feast. 

Right at his owen table gave his best* *command 

To slay the Baptist John full guilteless. 

Seneca saith a good word, doubteless: 

He saith he can no difference find 

Betwixt a man that is out of his mind. 

And a man whiche that is drunkelew:* *a drunkard < 1 1 > 

But that woodness,* y-fallen in a shrew,* *madness **one evil-tempered 

Persevereth longer than drunkenness. 

O gluttony, full of all cursedness; 

O cause first of our confusion. 

Original of our damnation. 

Till Christ had bought us with his blood again! 

Looke, how deare, shortly for to sayn, 

Abought* was first this cursed villainy: 

Corrupt was all this world for gluttony. 

*atoned for 

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Adam our father, and his wife also. 
From Paradise, to labour and to woe. 
Were driven for that vice, it is no dread.* 
For while that Adam fasted, as I read. 
He was in Paradise; and when that he 
Ate of the fruit defended* of the tree. 
Anon he was cast out to woe and pain. 

gluttony! well ought us on thee plain. 
Oh! wist a man how many maladies 
Follow of excess and of gluttonies. 

He woulde be the more measurable* 

Of his diete, sitting at his table. 

Alas! the shorte throat, the tender mouth, 

Maketh that east and west, and north and south. 

In earth, in air, in water, men do swink* 

To get a glutton dainty meat and drink. 

Of this mattere, O Paul! well canst thou treat 

Meat unto womb,* and womb eke unto meat. 

Shall God destroye both, as Paulus saith. <13> 

Alas! a foul thing is it, by my faith. 

To say this word, and fouler is the deed. 

When man so drinketh of the *white and red,* 

That of his throat he maketh his privy 

Through thilke cursed superfluity 

The apostle saith, < 14> weeping full piteously. 

There walk many, of which you told have I, — 

1 say it now weeping with piteous voice, — 
That they be enemies of Christe's crois;* 

Of which the end is death; womb* is their God. 

O womb, O belly, stinking is thy cod,* 

Full fill'd of dung and of corruptioun; 

At either end of thee foul is the soun. 

How great labour and cost is thee to find!* 

These cookes how they stamp, and strain, and grind. 


forbidden <12> 







Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And turne substance into accident, 

To fulfill all thy likerous talent! 

Out of the harde bones knocke they 

The marrow, for they caste naught away 

That may go through the gullet soft and swoot* 

Of spicery and leaves, of bark and root. 

Shall be his sauce y-maked by delight. 

To make him have a newer appetite. 

But, certes, he that haunteth such delices 

Is dead while that he liveth in those vices. 


A lecherous thing is wine, and drunkenness 

Is full of striving and of wretchedness. 

O drunken man! disfgur'd is thy face,<16> 

Sour is thy breath, foul art thou to embrace: 

And through thy drunken nose sowneth the soun'. 

As though thous saidest aye, Samsoun! Samsoun! 

And yet, God wot, Samson drank never wine. 

Thou fallest as it were a sticked swine; 

Thy tongue is lost, and all thine honest cure;* 

For drunkenness is very sepulture* 

Of manne's wit and his discretion. 

In whom that drink hath domination. 

He can no counsel keep, it is no dread.* 

Now keep you from the white and from the red. 

And namely* from the white wine of Lepe,<17> 

That is to sell in Fish Street <18> and in Cheap. 

This wine of Spaine creepeth subtilly — 

In other wines growing faste by. 

Of which there riseth such fumosity. 

That when a man hath drunken draughtes three. 

And weeneth that he be at home in Cheap, 

He is in Spain, right at the town of Lepe, 

Not at the Rochelle, nor at Bourdeaux town; 




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And thenne will he say, Samsoun! Samsoun! 

But hearken, lordings, one word, I you pray. 

That all the sovreign actes, dare I say. 

Of victories in the Old Testament, 

Through very God that is omnipotent. 

Were done in abstinence and in prayere: 

Look in the Bible, and there ye may it lean* *learn 

Look, Attila, the greate conqueror. 

Died in his sleep, <19> with shame and dishonour. 

Bleeding aye at his nose in drunkenness: 

A captain should aye live in soberness 

And o'er all this, advise* you right well *consider, bethink 

What was commanded unto Lemuel; <20> 

Not Samuel, but Lemuel, say I. 

Reade the Bible, and fmd it expressly 

Of wine giving to them that have justice. 

No more of this, for it may well suffice. 


And, now that I have spoke of gluttony. 

Now will I you *defende hazardry* 

Hazard is very mother of leasings,* 

And of deceit, and cursed forswearings: 

Blasphem' of Christ, manslaughter, and waste also 

Of chattel* and of time; and furthermo' 

It is repreve,* and contrar' of honour. 

For to be held a common hazardour. 

And ever the higher he is of estate. 

The more he is holden desolate.* 

If that a prince use hazardry. 

In alle governance and policy 

He is, as by common opinion, 

Y-hold the less in reputation. 

*forbid gambling* 


undone, worthless 

Chilon, that was a wise ambassador. 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

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Was sent to Corinth with full great honor 

From Lacedemon, <21> to make alliance; 

And when he came, it happen'd him, by chance. 

That all the greatest that were of that land, 

Y-playing atte hazard he them fand.* 

For which, as soon as that it mighte be. 

He stole him home again to his country 

And saide there, "I will not lose my name. 

Nor will I take on me so great diffame,* 

You to ally unto no hazardors.* 

Sende some otherwise ambassadors. 

For, by my troth, me were lever* die. 

Than I should you to hazardors ally 

For ye, that be so glorious in honours. 

Shall not ally you to no hazardours. 

As by my will, nor as by my treaty" 

This wise philosopher thus said he. 

Look eke how to the King Demetrius 

The King of Parthes, as the book saith us. 

Sent him a pair of dice of gold in scorn. 

For he had used hazard therebeforn: 

For which he held his glory and renown 

At no value or reputatioun. 

Lordes may fmden other manner play 

Honest enough to drive the day away 

Now will I speak of oathes false and great 
A word or two, as olde bookes treat. 
Great swearing is a thing abominable. 
And false swearing is more reprovable. 
The highe God forbade swearing at all; 
Witness on Matthew: <22> but in special 
Of swearing saith the holyjeremie, <23> 
Thou thalt swear sooth thine oathes, and not lie: 





And swear in doom* and eke in righteousness; 

But idle swearing is a cursedness.* 

Behold and see, there in the firste table 

Of highe Godde's hestes* honourable, *commandments 

How that the second best of him is this. 

Take not my name in idle* or amiss. *in vain 

Lo, rather* he forbiddeth such swearing, *sooner 

Than homicide, or many a cursed thing; 

I say that as by order thus it standeth; 

This knoweth he that his bests* understandeth, *commandments 

How that the second best of God is that. 

And farthermore, I will thee tell all plat,* *flatly, plainly 

That vengeance shall not parte from his house. 

That of his oathes is outrageous. 

"By Godde's precious heart, and by his nails, <24> 

And by the blood of Christ, that is in Hailes, <25> 

Seven is my chance, and thine is cinque and trey: 

By Godde's armes, if thou falsely play. 

This dagger shall throughout thine hearte go." 

This fruit comes of the *bicched bones two,* *two cursed bones (dice)* 

Forswearing, ire, falseness, and homicide. 

Now, for the love of Christ that for us died. 

Leave your oathes, bothe great and smale. 

But, Sirs, now will I ell you forth my tale. 

These riotoures three, of which I tell. 
Long *erst than* prime rang of any bell. 
Were set them in a tavern for to drink; 
And as they sat, they heard a belle clink 
Before a corpse, was carried to the grave. 
That one of them gan calle to his knave,* 
"Go bet," <26> quoth he, "and aske readily 
What corpse is this, that passeth here forth by; 
And look that thou report his name well." 




Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

"Sir," quoth the boy, "it needeth never a deal;* *whit 

It was me told ere ye came here two hours; 

He was, pardie, an old fellow of yours. 

And suddenly he was y-slain to-night; 

Fordrunk* as he sat on his bench upright, *completely drunk 

There came a privy thief, men clepe Death, 

That in this country all the people slay'th. 

And with his spear he smote his heart in two. 

And went his way withoute wordes mo'. 

He hath a thousand slain this pestilence; 

And, master, ere you come in his presence. 

Me thinketh that it were full necessary 

For to beware of such an adversary; 

Be ready for to meet him evermore. 

Thus taughte me my dame; I say no more." 

"By Sainte Mary," said the tavernere, 

"The child saith sooth, for he hath slain this year. 

Hence ov'r a mile, within a great village. 

Both man and woman, child, and hind, and page; 

I trow his habitation be there; 

To be advised* great wisdom it were, *watchful, on one's guard 

Ere* that he did a man a dishonour." *lest 

"Yea, Godde's armes," quoth this riotour, 
"Is it such peril with him for to meet? 
I shall him seek, by stile and eke by street. 
I make a vow, by Godde's digne* bones." 
Hearken, fellows, we three be alle ones:* 
Let each of us hold up his hand to other. 
And each of us become the other's brother. 
And we will slay this false traitor Death; 
He shall be slain, he that so many slay'th. 
By Godde's dignity, ere it be night." 
Together have these three their trothe plight 

*at one 

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tore to pieces <7> 

look on graciously 

*closely wrapt up 

To live and die each one of them for other 

As though he were his owen sworen brother. 

And up they start, all drunken, in this rage. 

And forth they go towardes that village 

Of which the taverner had spoke beforn. 

And many a grisly* oathe have they sworn. 

And Christe's blessed body they to-rent;* 

"Death shall be dead, if that we may him hent.' 

When they had gone not fully half a mile. 

Right as they would have trodden o'er a stile. 

An old man and a poore with them met. 

This olde man full meekely them gret,* 

And saide thus; "Now, lordes, God you see!"* 

The proudest of these riotoures three 

Answer 'd again; "What? churl, with sorry grace. 

Why art thou all forwrapped* save thy face? 

Why livest thou so long in so great age?" 

This olde man gan look on his visage. 

And saide thus; "For that I cannot fmd 

A man, though that I walked unto Ind, 

Neither in city, nor in no village go. 

That woulde change his youthe for mine age; 

And therefore must I have mine age still 

As longe time as it is Godde's will. 

And Death, alas! he will not have my life. 

Thus walk I like a resteless caitife,* *miserable wretch 

And on the ground, which is my mother's gate, 

I knocke with my staff, early and late. 

And say to her, 'Leve* mother, let me in. *dear 

Lo, how I wane, flesh, and blood, and skin; 

Alas! when shall my bones be at rest? 

Mother, with you I woulde change my chest. 

That in my chamber longe time hath be. 

Yea, for an hairy clout to *wrap in me.'* *wrap myself in* 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

But yet to me she will not do that grace, 
For which fall pale and welked* is my face. 
But, Sirs, to you it is no courtesy 
To speak unto an old man villainy. 
But* he trespass in word or else in deed. 
In Holy Writ ye may yourselves read; 
'Against* an old man, hoar upon his head. 
Ye should arise:' therefore I you rede,* 
Ne do unto an old man no harm now. 
No more than ye would a man did you 
In age, if that ye may so long abide. 
And God be with you, whether ye go or ride 
I must go thither as I have to go." 

"Nay, olde churl, by God thou shalt not so," 

Saide this other hazardor anon; 

"Thou partest not so lightly, by Saint John. 

Thou spakest right now of that traitor Death, 

That in this country all our friendes slay'th; 

Have here my troth, as thou art his espy;* 

Tell where he is, or thou shalt it abie,* 

By God and by the holy sacrament; 

For soothly thou art one of his assent 

To slay us younge folk, thou false thief" 

"Now, Sirs," quoth he, "if it be you so lieP 

To fmde Death, turn up this crooked way. 

For in that grove I left him, by my fay. 

Under a tree, and there he will abide; 

Nor for your boast he will him nothing hide. 

See ye that oak? right there ye shall him fmd. 

God save you, that bought again mankind. 

And you amend!" Thus said this olde man; 

And evereach of these riotoures ran. 

Till they came to the tree, and there they found 



*to meet 

*suffer for 


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P ittp:// 4Q5 

Of florins fme, of gold y-coined round. 

Well nigh a seven bushels, as them thought. 

No longer as then after Death they sought; 

But each of them so glad was of the sight. 

For that the florins were so fair and bright. 

That down they sat them by the precious hoard. 

The youngest of them spake the firste word: 

"Brethren," quoth he, "*take keep* what I shall say; *heed* 

My wit is great, though that I bourde* and play *joke, frolic 

This treasure hath Fortune unto us given 

In mirth and jollity our life to liven; 

And lightly as it comes, so will we spend. 

Hey! Godde's precious dignity! who wend* *weened, thought 

Today that we should have so fair a grace? 

But might this gold he carried from this place 

Home to my house, or elles unto yours 

(For well I wot that all this gold is ours). 

Then were we in high felicity. 

But truely by day it may not be; 

Men woulde say that we were thieves strong. 

And for our owen treasure do us hong.* *have us hanged 

This treasure muste carried be by night. 

As wisely and as slily as it might. 

Wherefore I rede,* that cut** among us all *advise **lots 

We draw, and let see where the cut will fall: 

And he that hath the cut, with hearte blithe 

Shall run unto the town, and that full swithe,* *quickly 

And bring us bread and wine full privily: 

And two of us shall keepe subtilly 

This treasure well: and if he will not tarry. 

When it is night, we will this treasure carry. 

By one assent, where as us thinketh best." 

Then one of them the cut brought in his fist. 

And bade them draw, and look where it would fall; 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And it fell on the youngest of them all; 

And forth toward the town he went anon. 

And all so soon as that he was y-gone, 

The one of them spake thus unto the other; 

"Thou knowest well that thou art my sworn brother, 

*Thy profit* will I tell thee right anon. *what is for thine 

Thou knowest well that our fellow is gone, advantage* 

And here is gold, and that full great plenty. 

That shall departed* he among us three. *divided 

But natheless, if I could shape* it so *contrive 

That it departed were among us two. 

Had I not done a friende's turn to thee?" 

Th' other answer'd, "I not* how that may be; *know not 

He knows well that the gold is with us tway. 

What shall we do? what shall we to him say?" 

"Shall it be counsel?"* said the firste shrew;** *secret **wretch 

"And I shall tell to thee in wordes few 

What we shall do, and bring it well about." 

"I grante," quoth the other, "out of doubt. 

That by my truth I will thee not bewray"* *betray 

"Now," quoth the first, "thou know'st well we be tway. 

And two of us shall stronger be than one. 

Look; when that he is set,* thou right anon *sat down 

Arise, as though thou wouldest with him play; 

And I shall rive* him through the sides tway, *stab 

While that thou strugglest with him as in game; 

And with thy dagger look thou do the same. 

And then shall all this gold departed* be, *divided 

My deare friend, betwixte thee and me: 

Then may we both our lustes* all fulfil, *pleasures 

And play at dice right at our owen will." 

And thus accorded* be these shrewes** tway *agreed **wretches 

To slay the third, as ye have heard me say. 

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The youngest, which that wente to the town. 

Full oft in heart he rolled up and down 

The beauty of these florins new and bright. 

"O Lord!" quoth he, "if so were that I might 

Have all this treasure to myself alone. 

There is no man that lives under the throne 

Of God, that shoulde have so merry as L" 

And at the last the fiend our enemy 

Put in his thought, that he should poison buy. 

With which he mighte slay his fellows twy.* *two 

For why, the fiend found him *in such living,* *leading such a 

That he had leave to sorrow him to bring. (bad) life* 

For this was utterly his full intent 

To slay them both, and never to repent. 

And forth he went, no longer would he tarry. 

Into the town to an apothecary. 

And prayed him that he him woulde sell 

Some poison, that he might *his rattes quell,^ 

And eke there was a polecat in his haw,* 

That, as he said, his eapons had y-slaw:* 

And fain he would him wreak,* if that he might. 

Of vermin that destroyed him by night. 

Th'apothecary answer'd, "Thou shalt have 

A thing, as wisly* God my soule save. 

In all this world there is no creature 

That eat or drank hath of this confecture. 

Not but the mountance* of a corn of wheat, *amount 

That he shall not his life *anon forlete;* *immediately lay down* 

Yea, sterve* he shall, and that in lesse while *die 

Than thou wilt go *apace* nought but a mile: *quickly* 

This poison is so strong and violent." 

This cursed man hath in his hand y-hent* *taken 

This poison in a box, and swift he ran 

Into the nexte street, unto a man. 

*kill his rats* 

farm-yard, hedge <27> 





Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And borrow'd of him large bottles three; 
And in the two the poison poured he; 
The third he kepte clean for his own drink, 
For all the night he shope him* for to swink*' 
In carrying off the gold out of that place. 
And when this riotour, with sorry grace, 
Had fdl'd with wine his greate bottles three. 

*purposed **labour 

To his fellows again repaired he. 

What needeth it thereof to sermon* more? *talk, discourse 

For, right as they had cast* his death before, *plotted 

Right so they have him slain, and that anon. 

And when that this was done, thus spake the one; 

"Now let us sit and drink, and make us merry. 

And afterward we will his body bury." 

And with that word it happen'd him *par cas* *by chance 

To take the bottle where the poison was. 

And drank, and gave his fellow drink also. 

For which anon they sterved* both the two. *died 

But certes I suppose that Avicen 

Wrote never in no canon, nor no fen, <28> 

More wondrous signes of empoisoning. 

Than had these wretches two ere their ending. 

Thus ended be these homicides two. 

And eke the false empoisoner also. 

O cursed sin, full of all cursedness! 

O trait'rous homicide! O wickedness! 

O glutt'ny, luxury, and hazardry! 

Thou blasphemer of Christ with villany,* 

And oathes great, of usage and of pride! 

Alas! mankinde, how may it betide. 

That to thy Creator, which that thee wrought. 

And with his precious hearte-blood thee bought. 

outrage, impiety 

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Thou art so false and so unkind,* alas! 

Now, good men, God forgive you your trespass. 

And ware* you from the sin of avarice. 

Mine holy pardon may you all warice,* 

So that ye offer *nobles or sterlings,* 

Or elles silver brooches, spoons, or rings. 

Bowe your head under this holy bull. 

Come up, ye wives, and offer of your will; 

Your names I enter in my roll anon; 

Into the bliss of heaven shall ye gon; 

I you assoil* by mine high powere. 

You that will offer, as clean and eke as clear 

As ye were born. Lo, Sires, thus I preach; 

And Jesus Christ, that is our soules' leech,* 

So grante you his pardon to receive; 

For that is best, I will not deceive. 


gold or silver coins* 

*absolve <29> 



But, Sirs, one word forgot I in my tale; 

I have relics and pardon in my mail. 

As fair as any man in Engleland, 

Which were me given by the Pope's hand. 

If any of you will of devotion 

Offer, and have mine absolution. 

Come forth anon, and kneele here adown 

And meekely receive my pardoun. 

Or elles take pardon, as ye wend,* 

All new and fresh at every towne's end. 

So that ye offer, always new and new. 

Nobles or pence which that be good and true. 

Tis an honour to evereach* that is here. 

That ye have a suffisant* pardonere 

T'assoile* you in country as ye ride. 

For aventures which that may betide. 

Paraventure there may fall one or two 


*each one 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Down of his horse, and break his neck in two. 

Look, what a surety is it to you all. 

That I am in your fellowship y-fall. 

That may assoil* you bothe *more and lass,* 

When that the soul shall from the body pass. 

I rede* that our Hoste shall begin. 

For he is most enveloped in sin. 

Come forth. Sir Host, and offer first anon. 

And thou shalt kiss; the relics every one. 

Yea, for a groat; unbuckle anon thy purse. 

*ab solve 
*great and small* 

"Nay, nay," quoth he, "then have I Christe's curse! 

Let be," quoth he, "it shall not be, *so the'ch.* *so may I thrive* 

Thou wouldest make me kiss thine olde breech. 

And swear it were a relic of a saint. 

Though it were with thy *fundament depaint'.* *stained by your bottom* 

But, by the cross which that Saint Helen fand,* *found <30> 

I would I had thy coilons* in mine hand, *testicles 

Instead of relics, or of sanctuary. 

Let cut them off, I will thee help them carry; 

They shall be shrined in a hogge's turd." 

The Pardoner answered not one word; 

So wroth he was, no worde would he say. 

"Now," quoth our Host, "I will no longer play 
With thee, nor with none other angry man." 
But right anon the worthy Knight began 
(When that he saw that all the people lough*), 
"No more of this, for it is right enough. 
Sir Pardoner, be merry and glad of cheer; 
And ye. Sir Host, that be to me so dear, 
I pray you that ye kiss the Pardoner; 
And, Pardoner, I pray thee draw thee ner,* 
And as we didde, let us laugh and play" 
Anon they kiss'd, and rode forth their way. 


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The Prologue. 

Our Host upon his stirrups stood anon. 

And saide; "Good men, hearken every one. 

This was a thrifty* tale for the nones. *discreet, profitable 

Sir Parish Priest," quoth he, "for Godde's bones. 

Tell us a tale, as was thy *forword yore:* *promise formerly* 

I see well that ye learned men in lore 

Can* muche good, by Godde's dignity." *know 

The Parson him answer 'd, "Ben'dicite! 

What ails the man, so sinfully to swear?" 

Our Host answer 'd, "O Jankin, be ye there? 

Now, good men," quoth our Host, "hearken to me. 

I smell a Lollard <2> in the wind," quoth he. 

"Abide, for Godde's digne* passion, *worthy 

For we shall have a predication: 

This Lollard here will preachen us somewhat." 

"Nay, by my father's soul, that shall he not, 

Saide the Shipman; "Here shall he not preach. 

He shall no gospel glose* here nor teach. *comment upon 

We all believe in the great God," quoth he. 

"He woulde sowe some difficulty. 

Or springe cockle <3> in our cleane corn. 

And therefore. Host, I warne thee beforn. 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

My jolly body shall a tale tell, 

And I shall clinke you so merry a bell, 

That I shall waken all this company; 

But it shall not be of philosophy. 

Nor of physic, nor termes quaint of law; 

There is but little Latin in my maw."* 


The Tale. 

A Merchant whilom dwell'd at Saint Denise, 
That riche was, for which men held him wise. 
A wife he had of excellent beauty. 
And *companiable and revellous* was she. 
Which is a thing that causeth more dispence 
Than worth is all the cheer and reverence 
That men them do at feastes and at dances. 
Such salutations and countenances 
Passen, as doth the shadow on the wall; 
Put woe is him that paye must for all. 
The sely* husband algate** he must pay. 
He must us <2> clothe and he must us array 
All for his owen worship richely: 
In which array we dance jollily. 
And if that he may not, paraventure. 
Or elles list not such dispence endure. 
But thinketh it is wasted and y-lost. 
Then must another paye for our cost. 
Or lend us gold, and that is perilous. 

*fond of society and 
merry making* 

*innocent **always 

This noble merchant held a noble house; 
For which he had all day so great repair,* 
For his largesse, and for his wife was fair. 
That wonder is; but hearken to my tale. 

*resort of visitors 

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*claimed kindred 
with him* 

Amonges all these guestes great and smale. 

There was a monk, a fair man and a bold, 

I trow a thirty winter he was old. 

That ever-in-one* was drawing to that place. 

This younge monk, that was so fair of face. 

Acquainted was so with this goode man. 

Since that their firste knowledge began. 

That in his house as familiar was he 

As it is possible any friend to be. 

And, for as muchel as this goode man. 

And eke this monk of which that I began. 

Were both the two y-born in one village. 

The monk *him claimed, as for cousinage,* 

And he again him said not once nay. 

But was as glad thereof as fowl of day; 

"For to his heart it was a great pleasance. 

Thus be they knit with etern' alliance. 

And each of them gan other to assure 

Of brotherhood while that their life may dure. 

Free was Dan <3> John, and namely* of dispence,** *especially **spending 

As in that house, and full of diligence 

To do pleasance, and also *great costage;* 

He not forgot to give the leaste page 

In all that house; but, after their degree. 

He gave the lord, and sithen* his meinie,* 

When that he came, some manner honest thing; 

For which they were as glad of his coming 

As fowl is fain when that the sun upriseth. 

No more of this as now, for it sufficeth. 

*liberal outlay* 

*afterwards **servants 

But so befell, this merchant on a day 
Shope* him to make ready his array 
Toward the town of Bruges <4> for to fare. 
To buye there a portion of ware;* 

*resolved, arranged 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

For which he hath to Paris sent anon 
A messenger, and prayed hath Dan John 
That he should come to Saint Denis, and play* 
With him, and with his wife, a day or tway. 
Ere he to Bruges went, in alle wise. 
This noble monk, of which I you devise,* 
Had of his abbot, as him list, licence, 
(Because he was a man of high prudence. 
And eke an officer out for to ride. 
To see their granges and their barnes wide); <5> 
And unto Saint Denis he came anon. 
Who was so welcome as my lord Dan John, 
Our deare cousin, full of courtesy? 
With him he brought a jub* of malvesie. 
And eke another full of fme vernage, <6> 
And volatile,* as aye was his usage: 
And thus I let them eat, and drink, and play. 
This merchant and this monk, a day or tway. 
The thirde day the merchant up ariseth. 
And on his needeis sadly him adviseth; 
And up into his countour-house* went he. 
To reckon with himself as well maybe. 
Of thilke* year, how that it with him stood. 
And how that he dispended bad his good. 
And if that he increased were or non. 
His bookes and his bagges many a one 
He laid before him on his counting-board. 
Full riche was his treasure and his hoard; 
For which full fast his countour door he shet; 
And eke he would that no man should him let* 
Of his accountes, for the meane time: 
And thus he sat, till it was passed prime. 

*enjoy himself 




*counting-house <7> 



Dan John was risen in the morn also. 

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*rod <8> 


*unless **pallid, wasted 

And in the garden walked to and fro. 

And had his thinges said full courteously. 

The good wife came walking full privily 

Into the garden, where he walked soft. 

And him saluted, as she had done oft; 

A maiden child came in her company. 

Which as her list she might govern and gie,* 

For yet under the yarde* was the maid. 

"O deare cousin mine, Dan John," she said, 

"What aileth you so rath* for to arise?" 

"Niece," quoth he, "it ought enough suffice 

Five houres for to sleep upon a night;' 

But* it were for an old appalled** wight. 

As be these wedded men, that lie and dare,* 

As in a forme sits a weary hare, 

Alle forstraught* with houndes great and smale; *distracted, confounded 

But, deare niece, why be ye so pale? 

I trowe certes that our goode man 

Hath you so laboured, since this night began. 

That you were need to reste hastily." 

And with that word he laugh'd full merrily. 

And of his owen thought he wax'd all red. 

This faire wife gan for to shake her head. 

And saide thus; "Yea, God wot all" quoth she. 

"Nay, cousin mine, it stands not so with me; 

For by that God, that gave me soul and life. 

In all the realm of France is there no wife 

That lesse lust hath to that sorry play; 

For I may sing alas and well-away! 

That I was born; but to no wight," quoth she, 

"Dare I not tell how that it stands with me. 

Wherefore I think out of this land to wend. 

Or elles of myself to make an end. 

So full am I of dread and eke of care." 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

This monk began upon this wife to stare, 

And said, "Alas! my niece, God forbid 

That ye for any sorrow, or any dread. 

Fordo* yourself: but telle me your grief, 

Paraventure I may, in your mischief,* 

Counsel or help; and therefore telle me 

All your annoy, for it shall be secre. 

For on my portos* here I make an oath. 

That never in my life, *for lief nor loth,* 

Ne shall I of no counsel you bewray" 

"The same again to you," quoth she, "I say 

By God and by this portos I you swear. 

Though men me woulden all in pieces tear, 

Ne shall I never, for* to go to hell. 

Bewray* one word of thing that ye me tell. 

For no cousinage, nor alliance. 

But verily for love and affiance."* 

Thus be they sworn, and thereupon they kiss'd. 

And each of them told other what them list. 

"Cousin," quoth she, "if that I hadde space. 

As I have none, and namely* in this place. 

Then would I tell a legend of my life. 

What I have suffer 'd since I was a wife 

With mine husband, all* be he your cousin. 

"Nay," quoth this monk, "by God and Saint Martin, 

He is no more cousin unto me. 

Than is the leaf that hangeth on the tree; 

I call him so, by Saint Denis of France, 

To have the more cause of acquaintance 

Of you, which I have loved specially 

Aboven alle women sickerly,* 

This swear I you *on my professioun;* 

Tell me your grief, lest that he come adown. 


willing or unwilling* 

*though I should 

confidence, promise 



by my vows of religion 

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And hasten you, and go away anon." 


"My deare love," quoth she, "O my Dan John, 

Full lieP were me this counsel for to hide. 

But out it must, I may no more abide. 

My husband is to me the worste man 

That ever was since that the world began; 

But since I am a wife, it sits* not me 

To telle no wight of our privity. 

Neither in bed, nor in none other place; 

God shield* I shoulde tell it for his grace; 

A wife shall not say of her husband 

But all honour, as I can understand; 

Save unto you thus much I telle shall; 

As help me God, he is nought worth at all 

In no degree, the value of a fly 

But yet me grieveth most his niggardy* 

And well ye wot, that women naturally 

Desire thinges six, as well as I. 

They woulde that their husbands shoulde be 

Hardy,* and wise, and rich, and thereto free. 

And buxom* to his wife, and fresh in bed. 

But, by that ilke* Lord that for us bled. 

For his honour myself for to array. 

On Sunday next I muste needes pay 

A hundred francs, or elles am I lorn.* 

Yet *were me lever* that I were unborn. 

Than me were done slander or villainy. 

And if mine husband eke might it espy, 

I were but lost; and therefore I you pray. 

Lend me this sum, or elles must I dey* 

Dan John, I say, lend me these hundred francs; 

Pardie, I will not faile you, *my thanks,* 

If that you list to do that I you pray; 





*yielding, obedient 

*ruined, undone 
*I would rather* 

'ifl can help it* 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

For at a certain day I will you pay 
And do to you what pleasance and service 
That I may do, right as you list devise. 
And but* I do, God take on me vengeance. 
As foul as e'er had Ganilion <9> of France." 


This gentle monk answer'd in this mannere; 

"Now truely, mine owen lady dear, 

I have," quoth he, "on you so greate ruth,* *pity 

That I you swear, and plighte you my truth. 

That when your husband is to Flanders fare,* *gone 

I will deliver you out of this care. 

For I will bringe you a hundred francs." 

And with that word he caught her by the flanks. 

And her embraced hard, and kissed her oft. 

"Go now your way," quoth he, "all still and soft. 

And let us dine as soon as that ye may. 

For by my cylinder* 'tis prime of day; *portable sundial 

Go now, and be as true as I shall be ." 

"Now elles God forbidde. Sir," quoth she; 

And forth she went, as jolly as a pie. 

And bade the cookes that they should them hie,* *make haste 

So that men mighte dine, and that anon. 

Up to her husband is this wife gone. 

And knocked at his contour boldely 

*"Qui est la?"* quoth he. "Peter! it am I," *who is there?* 

Quoth she; "What, Sir, how longe all will ye fast? 

How longe time will ye reckon and cast 

Your summes, and your bookes, and your things? 

The devil have part of all such reckonings! 

Ye have enough, pardie, of Godde's sond.* *sending, gifts 

Come down to-day, and let your bagges stond.* *stand 

Ne be ye not ashamed, that Dan John 

Shall fasting all this day elenge* gon? *see note < 10> 

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What? let us hear a mass, and go we dine." 

"Wife," quoth this man, "little canst thou divine 

The curious businesse that we have; 

For of us chapmen,* all so God me save. 

And by that lord that cleped is Saint Ive, 

Scarcely amonges twenty, ten shall thrive 

Continually, lasting unto our age. 

We may well make cheer and good visage. 

And drive forth the world as it may be. 

And keepen our estate in privity. 

Till we be dead, or elles that we play 

A pilgrimage, or go out of the way. 

And therefore have I great necessity 

Upon this quaint* world to advise** me. 

For evermore must we stand in dread 

Of hap and fortune in our chapmanhead.* 

To Flanders will I go to-morrow at day. 

And come again as soon as e'er I may: 

For which, my deare wife, I thee beseek 

As be to every wight buxom* and meek. 

And for to keep our good be curious. 

And honestly governe well our house. 

Thou hast enough, in every manner wise. 

That to a thrifty household may suffice. 

Thee lacketh none array, nor no vitail; 

Of silver in thy purse thou shalt not fail." 



strange **consider 

*civil, courteous 

And with that word his contour door he shet,* 

And down he went; no longer would he let;* 

And hastily a mass was there said. 

And speedily the tables were laid. 

And to the dinner faste they them sped. 

And richely this monk the chapman fed. 

And after dinner Dan John soberly 

*delay, hinder 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

This chapman took apart, and privily 

He said him thus: "Cousin, it standeth so. 

That, well I see, to Bruges ye will go; 

God and Saint Austin speede you and guide. 

I pray you, cousin, wisely that ye ride: 

Governe you also of your diet 

Attemperly* and namely** in this heat. *moderately 

Betwixt us two needeth no *strange fare;* *ado, ceremony* 

Farewell, cousin, God shielde you from care. 

If any thing there be, by day or night. 

If it lie in my power and my might. 

That ye me will command in anywise. 

It shall be done, right as ye will devise. 

But one thing ere ye go, if it may be; 

I woulde pray you for to lend to me 

A hundred frankes, for a week or twy. 

For certain beastes that I muste buy. 

To store with a place that is ours 

(God help me so, I would that it were yours); 

I shall not faile surely of my day. 

Not for a thousand francs, a mile way. 

But let this thing be secret, I you pray; 

For yet to-night these beastes must I buy. 

And fare now well, mine owen cousin dear; 

*Grand mercy* of your cost and of your cheer." *great thanks* 

This noble merchant gentilly* anon *like a gentleman 

Answer 'd and said, "O cousin mine, Dan John, 
Now sickerly this is a small request: 
My gold is youres, when that it you lest. 

And not only my gold, but my chaffare;* *merchandise 

Take what you list, *God shielde that ye spare.* *God forbid that you 
But one thing is, ye know it well enow should take too little* 

Of chapmen, that their money is their plough. 

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We may creance* while we have a name. 
But goldless for to be it is no game. 
Pay it again when it lies in your ease; 
After my might full fain would I you please." 


*obtain credit 

These hundred frankes set he forth anon. 

And privily he took them to Dan John; 

No wight in all this world wist of this loan. 

Saving the merchant and Dan John alone. 

They drink, and speak, and roam a while, and play. 

Till that Dan John rode unto his abbay. 

The morrow came, and forth this merchant rideth 

To Flanders-ward, his prentice well him guideth. 

Till he came unto Bruges merrily. 

Now went this merchant fast and busily 

About his need, and buyed and creanced;* 

He neither played at the dice, nor danced; 

But as a merchant, shortly for to tell. 

He led his life; and there I let him dwell. 

*got credit 

The Sunday next* the merchant was y-gone, *after 

To Saint Denis y-comen is Dan John, 

With crown and beard all fresh and newly shave. 

In all the house was not so little a knave,* *servant-boy 

Nor no wight elles that was not full fain 

For that my lord Dan John was come again. 

And shortly to the point right for to gon. 

The faire wife accorded with Dan John, 

That for these hundred francs he should all night 

Have her in his armes bolt upright; 

And this accord performed was in deed. 

In mirth all night a busy life they lead. 

Till it was day, that Dan John went his way. 

And bade the meinie* "Farewell; have good day." *servants 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

For none of them, nor no wight in the town, 
Had of Dan John right no suspicioun; 
And forth he rode home to his abbay. 
Or where him list; no more of him I say. 

The merchant, when that ended was the fair. 

To Saint Denis he gan for to repair. 

And with his wife he made feast and cheer. 

And tolde her that chaffare* was so dear. 

That needes must he make a chevisance;* 

For he was bound in a recognisance 

To paye twenty thousand shields* anon. 

For which this merchant is to Paris gone. 

To borrow of certain friendes that he had 

A certain francs, and some with him he lad.* 

And when that he was come into the town. 

For great cherte* and great affectioun 

Unto Dan John he wente first to play; 

Not for to borrow of him no money. 

Bat for to weet* and see of his welfare. 

And for to telle him of his chaffare. 

As friendes do, when they be met in fere.* 

Dan John him made feast and merry cheer; 

And he him told again full specially. 

How he had well y-b ought and graciously 

(Thanked be God) all whole his merchandise; 

Save that he must, in alle manner wise, 

Maken a chevisance, as for his best; 

And then he shoulde be in joy and rest. 

Dan John answered, "Certes, I am fain* 

That ye in health be come borne again: 

And if that I were rich, as have I bliss. 

Of twenty thousand shields should ye not miss. 

For ye so kindely the other day 

*loan <11> 

*crowns, ecus 




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Lente me gold, and as I can and may 

I thanke you, by God and by Saint Jame. 

But natheless I took unto our Dame, 

Your wife at home, the same gold again. 

Upon your bench; she wot it well, certain. 

By certain tokens that I can her tell 

Now, by your leave, I may no longer dwell; 

Our abbot will out of this town anon. 

And in his company I muste gon. 

Greet well our Dame, mine owen niece sweet. 

And farewell, deare cousin, till we meet. 


This merchant, which that was full ware and wise. 

*Creanced hath,* and paid eke in Paris 
To certain Lombards ready in their bond 
The sum of gold, and got of them his bond. 
And home he went, merry as a popinjay* 
For well he knew he stood in such array 
That needes must he win in that voyage 
A thousand francs, above all his costage.* 
His wife full ready met him at the gate. 
As she was wont of old usage algate* 
And all that night in mirthe they beset;* 
For he was rich, and clearly out of debt. 
When it was day, the merchant gan embrace 
His wife all new, and kiss'd her in her face. 
And up he went, and maked it full tough. 

"No more," quoth she, "by God ye have enough;" 
And wantonly again with him she play'd. 
Till at the last this merchant to her said. 
"By God," quoth he, "I am a little wroth 
With you, my wife, although it be me loth; 
And wot ye why? by God, as that I guess. 

*had obtained credit* 





Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

That ye have made a *manner strangeness* 
Betwixte me and my cousin, Dan John. 
Ye should have warned me, ere I had gone. 
That he you had a hundred frankes paid 
By ready token; he *had him evil apaid* 
For that I to him spake of chevisance,* 
(He seemed so as by his countenance); 
But natheless, by God of heaven king, 
I thoughte not to ask of him no thing. 
I pray thee, wife, do thou no more so. 
Tell me alway, ere that I from thee go. 
If any debtor hath in mine absence 
Y-payed thee, lest through thy negligence 
I might him ask a thing that he hath paid." 

*a kind of estrangement* 

*was displeased* 

This wife was not afeared nor afraid. 

But boldely she said, and that anon; 

"Mary! I defy that false monk Dan John, 

I keep* not of his tokens never a deal:** 

He took me certain gold, I wot it well. — 

What? evil thedom* on his monke's snout! — 

For, God it wot, I ween'd withoute doubt 

That he had given it me, because of you. 

To do therewith mine honour and my prow,* 

For cousinage, and eke for belle cheer 

That he hath had full often here. 

But since I see I stand in such disjoint,* 

I will answer you shortly to the point. 

Ye have more slacke debtors than am I; 

For I will pay you well and readily. 

From day to day, and if so be I fail, 

I am your wife, score it upon my tail. 

And I shall pay as soon as ever I may. 

For, by my troth, I have on mine array. 




^awkward position 

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And not in waste, bestow'd it every deal. 

And, for I have bestowed it so well. 

For your honour, for Godde's sake I say. 

As be not wroth, but let us laugh and play. 

Ye shall my jolly body have *to wed;* *in pledge* 

By God, I will not pay you but in bed; 

Forgive it me, mine owen spouse dear; 

Turn hitherward, and make better cheer." 


The merchant saw none other remedy; 

And for to chide, it were but a folly. 

Since that the thing might not amended be. 

"Now, wife," he said, "and I forgive it thee; 

But by thy life be no more so large;* *liberal, lavish 

Keep better my good, this give I thee in charge." 

Thus endeth now my tale; and God us send 

Taling enough, until our lives' end! 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

me &'d(pye^ i I:yak. 

The Prologue. 

"WELL said, by *corpus Domini,"* quoth our Host; *the Lord's body* 

"Now longe may'st thou saile by the coast. 

Thou gentle Master, gentle Marinere. 

God give the monk *a thousand last quad year!* *ever so much evil* < 1 > 

Aha! fellows, beware of such a jape.* *trick 

The monk *put in the manne's hood an ape,* *fooled him* 

And in his wife's eke, by Saint Austin. 

Drawe no monkes more into your inn. 

But now pass over, and let us seek about. 

Who shall now telle first of all this rout 

Another tale;" and with that word he said. 

As courteously as it had been a maid; 

"My Lady Prioresse, by your leave. 

So that I wist I shoulde you not grieve,* *offend 

I woulde deeme* that ye telle should *judge, decide 

A tale next, if so were that ye would. 

Now will ye vouchesafe, my lady dear?" 

"Gladly," quoth she; and said as ye shall hear. 

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The Tale. 


O Lord our Lord! thy name how marvellous 

Is in this large world y-spread! <2> (quoth she) 

For not only thy laude* precious *praise 

Performed is by men of high degree. 

But by the mouth of children thy bounte* *goodness 

Performed is, for on the breast sucking 

Sometimes showe they thy herying.* <3> *glory 

Wherefore in laud, as I best can or may 
Of thee, and of the white lily flow'r 
Which that thee bare, and is a maid alway. 
To tell a story I will do my labour; 
Not that I may increase her honour. 
For she herselven is honour and root 
Of bounte, next her son, and soules' boot.* 


O mother maid, O maid and mother free!* *bounteous 

O bush unburnt, burning in Moses' sight. 

That ravished'st down from the deity. 

Through thy humbless, the ghost that in thee light; <4> 

Of whose virtue, when he thine hearte light,* *lightened, gladdened 

Conceived was the Father's sapience; 

Help me to tell it to thy reverence. 

Lady! thy bounty, thy magnificence. 

Thy virtue, and thy great humility. 

There may no tongue express in no science: 

For sometimes. Lady! ere men pray to thee. 

Thou go'st before, of thy benignity. 

And gettest us the light, through thy prayere. 

To gulden us unto thy son so dear. 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

My conning* is so weak, O blissful queen, *skill, ability 

For to declare thy great worthiness. 

That I not may the weight of it sustene; 

But as a child of twelvemonth old, or less. 

That can unnethes* any word express, *scarcely 

Right so fare I; and therefore, I you pray. 

Guide my song that I shall of you say 

There was in Asia, in a great city, 

Amonges Christian folk, a Jewery,<5> 

Sustained by a lord of that country. 

For foul usure, and lucre of villainy. 

Hateful to Christ, and to his company; 

And through the street men mighte ride and wend,* 

For it was free, and open at each end. 

*go, walk 

A little school of Christian folk there stood 
Down at the farther end, in which there were 
Children an heap y-come of Christian blood. 
That learned in that schoole year by year 
Such manner doctrine as men used there; 
This is to say, to singen and to read. 
As smalle children do in their childhead. 

Among these children was a widow's son, 

A little clergion,* seven year of age, *young clerk or scholar 

That day by day to scholay* was his won,** *study **wont 

And eke also, whereso he saw th' image 

Of Christe's mother, had he in usage. 

As him was taught, to kneel adown, and say 

Ave Maria as he went by the way 

Thus had this widow her little son y-taught 
Our blissful Lady, Christe's mother dear. 

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To worship aye, and he forgot it not; 
For sely* child will always soone lean** " 

But aye when I remember on this mattere. 
Saint Nicholas <6> stands ever in my presence; 
For he so young to Christ did reverence. 

innocent **learn 

This little child his little book learning. 
As he sat in the school at his primere. 
He Alma redemptoris <7> hearde sing. 
As children learned their antiphonere; <8> 
And as he durst, he drew him nere and nere,* 
And hearken'd aye the wordes and the note. 
Till he the firste verse knew all by rote. 

Nought wist he what this Latin was tosay,* 
For he so young and tender was of age; 
But on a day his fellow gan he pray 
To expound him this song in his language. 
Or tell him why this song was in usage: 
This pray'd he him to construe and declare. 
Full oftentime upon his knees bare. 


His fellow, which that elder was than he, 

Answer'd him thus: "This song, I have heard say. 

Was maked of our blissful Lady free. 

Her to salute, and eke her to pray 

To be our help and succour when we dey* 

I can no more expound in this mattere: 

I learne song, I know but small grammere." 


"And is this song y-made in reverence 
Of Christe's mother?" said this innocent; 
Now certes I will do my diligence 
To conne* it all, ere Christemas be went; 

*learn; con 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Though that I for my primer shall be shent,* 
And shall be beaten thries in an hour, 
I will it conne, our Lady to honour." 


His fellow taught him homeward* privily 

From day to day, till he coud* it by rote. 

And then he sang it well and boldely 

From word to word according with the note; 

Twice in a day it passed through his throat; 

To schoole-ward, and homeward when he went; 

On Christ's mother was set all his intent. 

*on the way home 

As I have said, throughout the Jewery, 

This little child, as he came to and fro. 

Full merrily then would he sing and cry, 

O Alma redemptoris, evermo'; 

The sweetness hath his hearte pierced so 

Of Christe's mother, that to her to pray 

He cannot stint* of singing by the way. *cease 

Our firste foe, the serpent Satanas, 

That hath in Jewes' heart his waspe's nest, 

Upswell'd and said,"0 Hebrew people, alas! 

Is this to you a thing that is honest,* *creditable, becoming 

That such a boy shall walken as him lest 

In your despite, and sing of such sentence. 

Which is against your lawe's reverence?" 

From thenceforth the Jewes have conspired 

This innocent out of the world to chase; 

A homicide thereto have they hired. 

That in an alley had a privy place. 

And, as the child gan forth by for to pace. 

This cursed Jew him hent,* and held him fast 


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And cut his throat, and in a pit him cast. 


I say that in a wardrobe* he him threw, *privy 

Where as the Jewes purged their entrail. 

O cursed folk! O Herodes all new! 

What may your evil intente you avail? 

Murder will out, certain it will not fail. 

And namely* where th' honour of God shall spread; *especially 

The blood out crieth on your cursed deed. 


O martyr souded* to virginity, *confirmed <9> 

Now may St thou sing, and follow ever-in-one* 

The white Lamb celestial (quoth she). 

Of which the great Evangelist Saint John 

In Patmos wrote, which saith that they that gon 

Before this Lamb, and sing a song all new. 

That never fleshly woman they ne knew. < 10 > 

This poore widow waited all that night 
After her little child, but he came not; 
For which, as soon as it was daye's light. 
With face pale, in dread and busy thought. 
She hath at school and elleswhere him sought. 
Till fmally she gan so far espy. 
That he was last seen in the Jewery. 

With mother's pity in her breast enclosed. 
She went, as she were half out of her mind. 
To every place, where she hath supposed 
By likelihood her little child to fmd: 
And ever on Christ's mother meek and kind 
She cried, and at the laste thus she wrought. 
Among the cursed Jewes she him sought. 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

She freined,* and she prayed piteously *asked* < 1 1 > 

To every Jew that dwelled in that place, 

To tell her, if her childe went thereby; 

They saide, "Nay;" but Jesus of his grace 

Gave in her thought, within a little space. 

That in that place after her son she cried. 

Where he was cast into a pit beside. 

O greate God, that preformest thy laud 

By mouth of innocents, lo here thy might! 

This gem of chastity, this emeraud,* *emerald 

And eke of martyrdom the ruby bright. 

Where he with throat y-carven* lay upright, *cut 

He Alma Redemptoris gan to sing 

So loud, that all the place began to ring. 

The Christian folk, that through the streete went. 

In came, for to wonder on this thing: 

And hastily they for the provost sent. 

He came anon withoute tarrying. 

And heried* Christ, that is of heaven king, *praised 

And eke his mother, honour of mankind; 

And after that the Jewes let* he bind. *caused 

With torment, and with shameful death each one 

The provost did* these Jewes for to sterve** *caused **die 

That of this murder wist, and that anon; 

He woulde no such cursedness observe* *overlook 

Evil shall have that evil will deserve; 

Therefore with horses wild he did them draw. 

And after that he hung them by the law. 

The child, with piteous lamentation. 
Was taken up, singing his song alway: 

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And with honour and great procession. 
They crry him unto the next abbay. 
His mother swooning by the biere lay; 
Unnethes* might the people that were there 
This newe Rachel bringe from his bier. 


Upon his biere lay this innocent 

Before the altar while the masses last';* 

And, after that, th' abbot with his convent 

Have sped them for to bury him full fast; 

And when they holy water on him cast. 

Yet spake this child, when sprinkled was the water. 

And sang, O Alma redemptoris mater! 

This abbot, which that was a holy man. 

As monkes be, or elles ought to be. 

This younger child to conjure he began. 

And said; "O deare child! I halse* thee. 

In virtue of the holy Trinity; 

Tell me what is thy cause for to sing. 

Since that thy throat is cut, to my seeming." 



*implore <12> 

"My throat is cut unto my necke-bone," 
Saide this child, "and, as *by way of kind,* 
I should have died, yea long time agone; 
But Jesus Christ, as ye in bookes fmd. 
Will that his glory last and be in mind; 
And, for the worship* of his mother dear. 
Yet may I sing O Alma loud and clear. 

"This well* of mercy, Christe's mother sweet, 
I loved alway, after my conning:* 
And when that I my life should forlete,* 
To me she came, and bade me for to sing 

*in course of nature* 




Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

This anthem verily in my dying, 

As ye have heard; and, when that I had sung. 

Me thought she laid a grain upon my tongue. 

"Wherefore I sing, and sing I must certain. 
In honour of that blissful maiden free. 
Till from my tongue off taken is the grain. 
And after that thus saide she to me; 
'My little child, then will I fetche thee. 
When that the grain is from thy tongue take: 
Be not aghast,* I will thee not forsake.'" 


This holy monk, this abbot him mean I, 

His tongue out caught, and took away the grain; 

And he gave up the ghost full softely. 

And when this abbot had this wonder seen. 

His sake teares trickled down as rain: 

And grofP he fell all flat upon the ground, *prostrate, grovelling 

And still he lay, as he had been y-bound. 

The convent* lay eke on the pavement 
Weeping, and herying* Christ's mother dear. 
And after that they rose, and forth they went. 
And took away this martyr from his bier. 
And in a tomb of marble stones clear 
Enclosed they his little body sweet; 
Where he is now, God lene* us for to meet. 

O younge Hugh of Lincoln! < 13 > slain also 
With cursed Jewes, — as it is notable. 
For it is but a little while ago, — 
Pray eke for us, we sinful folk unstable. 
That, of his mercy, God so merciable* 
On us his greate mercy multiply. 
For reverence of his mother Mary. 

*all the monks 



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6iee9^4 lya/eof(pfl^ ^/ix^baA. 

The Prologue. 

WHEN said was this miracle, every man 

As sober* was, that wonder was to see, *serious 

Till that our Host to japen* he began, *talk lightly 

And then *at erst* he looked upon me, *for the first time* 

And saide thus; "What man art thou?" quoth he; 

"Thou lookest as thou wouldest find an hare. 

For ever on the ground I see thee stare. 

"Approache near, and look up merrily. 

Now ware you. Sirs, and let this man have place. 

He in the waist is shapen as well as I; <2> 

This were a puppet in an arm t'embrace 

For any woman small and fair of face. 

He seemeth elvish* by his countenance. 
For unto no wight doth he dalliance. 

"Say now somewhat, since other folk have said; 

Tell us a tale of mirth, and that anon." 

"Hoste," quoth I, "be not evil apaid,* 

For other tale certes can* I none, 

Eut of a rhyme I learned yore* agone." 

"Yea, that is good," quoth he; "now shall we hear 

Some dainty thing, me thinketh by thy cheer."* 

*surly, morose 


*expression, mien 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

The Tale. 

The First Fit* 

Listen, lordings, in good intent, 
And I will tell you verrament* 
Of mirth and of solas,* 
All of a knight was fair and gent,* 
In battle and in tournament. 
His name was SirThopas. 

Y-born he was in far country. 
In Flanders, all beyond the sea. 
At Popering <2> in the place; 
His father was a man full free. 
And lord he was of that country. 
As it was Godde's grace. <3> 

SirThopas was a doughty swain. 

White was his face as paindemain, <4> 

His lippes red as rose. 

His rode* is like scarlet in grain. 

And I you tell in good certain 

He had a seemly nose. 

His hair, his beard, was like saffroun. 
That to his girdle reach'd adown. 
His shoes of cordewane:<5> 
Of Bruges were his hosen brown; 
His robe was of ciclatoun,<6> 
That coste many a j ane. < 7 > 

He coulde hunt at the wild deer. 
And ride on hawking *for rivere* 


*delight, solace 


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With gray goshawk on hand: < 8 > 
Thereto he was a good archere. 
Of wrestling was there none his peer. 
Where any ram <9> should stand. 

Full many a maiden bright in bow'r 
They mourned for him par amour. 
When them were better sleep; 
But he was chaste, and no lechour. 
And sweet as is the bramble flow'r 
That beareth the red heep.* 


*by the river* 

And so it fell upon a day. 
For sooth as I you telle may, 
SirThopas would out ride; 
He worth* upon his steede gray. 
And in his hand a launcegay,* 
A long sword by his side. 

He pricked through a fair forest. 
Wherein is many a wilde beast. 
Yea, bothe buck and hare; 
And as he pricked north and east, 
I tell it you, him had almest 
Betid* a sorry care. 

There sprange herbes great and small. 
The liquorice and the setewall,* 
And many a clove-gilofre, <12> 
And nutemeg to put in ale. 
Whether it be moist* or stale. 
Or for to lay in coffer. 

The birdes sang, it is no nay. 


*spear <10> 




Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

The sperhawk* and the popinjay,** 
That joy it was to hear; 
The throstle-cock made eke his lay, 
The woode-dove upon the spray 
She sang full loud and clear. 

*sparrowhawk **parrot <13> 

SirThopas fell in love-longing 

All when he heard the throstle sing. 

And *prick'd as he were wood;* 

His faire steed in his pricking 

So sweated, that men might him wring. 

His sides were all blood. 

*rode as if he 
were mad* 

SirThopas eke so weary was 

For pricking on the softe grass. 

So fierce was his corage,* 

That down he laid him in that place. 

To make his steed some solace. 

And gave him good forage. 

mclination, spirit 

"Ah, Saint Mary, ben'dicite. 
What aileth thilke* love at me 
To binde me so sore? 
Me dreamed all this night, pardie. 
An elf-queen shall my leman* be. 
And sleep under my gore.* 



An elf-queen will I love, y-wis,* 

For in this world no woman is 

Worthy to be my make* 

In town; 

All other women I forsake. 

And to an elf-queen I me take 

By dale and eke by down." < 14> 



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Into his saddle he clomb anon. 

And pricked over stile and stone 

An elf-queen for to spy. 

Till he so long had ridden and gone. 

That he found in a privy wonne* 

The country of Faery, 

So wild; 

For in that country was there none 

That to him durste ride or gon. 

Neither wife nor child. 


Till that there came a great giaunt. 

His name was Sir 01iphaunt,<15> 

A perilous man of deed; 

He saide, "Child,* by Termagaunt, <16> 

*But iP thou prick out of mine haunt. 

Anon I slay thy steed 

With mace. 

Here is the Queen of Faery, 

With harp, and pipe, and symphony. 

Dwelling in this place." 

young man 

The Child said, "All so may I the,* 

To-morrow will I meete thee. 

When I have mine armor; 

And yet I hope, *par ma fay,* 

That thou shalt with this launcegay 

Abyen* it full sore; 

Thy maw* 

Shall I pierce, if I may. 

Ere it be fully prime of day. 

For here thou shalt be slaw"* 


*by my faith* 

*suffer for 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

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Sir Thopas drew aback full fast; 

This giant at him stones cast 

Out of a fell staff sling: 

But fair escaped Child Thopas, 

And all it was through Godde's grace, 

And through his fair bearing. < 17> 

Yet listen, lordings, to my tale. 

Merrier than the nightingale. 

For now I will you rown,* 

How Sir Thopas, with sides smale,* 

Pricking over hill and dale. 

Is come again to town. 

His merry men commanded he 
To make him both game and glee; 
For needes must he fight 
With a giant with heades three. 
For paramour and jollity 
Of one that shone full bright. 

"*Do come,*" he saide, "my minstrales 

And gestours* for to telle tales. 

Anon in mine arming. 

Of romances that be royales, <19> 

Of popes and of cardinales. 

And eke of love-longing." 

They fetch'd him first the sweete wine. 
And mead eke in a maseline,* 
And royal spicery; 
Of ginger-bread that was full fine. 
And liquorice and eke cumin. 
With sugar that is trie.* 



of maple wood <20> 


He didde,* next his white lere,** 
Of cloth of lake* fine and clear, 
A breech and eke a shirt; 
And next his shirt an haketon,* 
And over that an habergeon,* 
For piercing of his heart; 

And over that a fine hauberk,* 
Was all y-wrought of Jewes'* werk. 
Full strong it was of plate; 
And over that his coat-armour,* 
As white as is the lily flow'r, <21 > 
In which he would debate.* 

His shield was all of gold so red 
And therein was a boare's head, 
A charboucle* beside; 
And there he swore on ale and bread. 
How that the giant should be dead. 
Betide whatso betide. 

His jambeaux* were of cuirbouly, <23> 

His sworde's sheath of ivory. 

His helm of latoun* bright. 

His saddle was of rewel <24> bone. 

His bridle as the sunne shone. 

Or as the moonelight. 

His speare was of fine cypress. 
That bodeth war, and nothing peace; 
The head full sharp y-ground. 
His steede was all dapple gray. 
It went an amble in the way 

*put on **skin 
*fine linen 

*coat of mail 


*knight's surcoat 


*carbuncle <22> 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Full softely and round 
In land. 

Lo, Lordes mine, here is a fytt; 
If ye will any more of it, 
To tell it will I fand.* 

The Second Fit 


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His brighte helm was his wanger,* 
And by him baited* his destrer** 
Of herbes fme and good. 

Himself drank water of the well. 
As did the knight Sir Percivel, <31 > 
So worthy under weed; 
Till on a day - . . . 


Now hold your mouth for charity, 
Bothe knight and lady free. 
And hearken to my spell;* 
Of battle and of chivalry. 
Of ladies' love and druerie,* 
Anon I will you tell. 

Men speak of romances of price* 

Of Horn Child, and of Ipotis, 

Of Bevis, and Sir Guy, <26> 

Of Sir Libeux, <27> and Pleindamour, 

But SirThopas, he bears the flow'r 

Of royal chivalry. 

His goode steed he all bestrode. 
And forth upon his way he glode,* 
As sparkle out of brand;* 
Upon his crest he bare a tow'r. 
And therein stick'd a lily flow'r; <28> 
God shield his corse* from shand!** 

And, for he was a knight auntrous,* 
He woulde sleepen in none house. 
But liggen* in his hood. 

*tale <25> 

* worth, esteem 


*body **harm 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

ikauee^^ ^a/eof^mMo^ 

The Prologue. 

"No more of this, for Godde's dignity!" 

Quoth oure Hoste; "for thou makest me 

So weary of thy very lewedness,* 

That, all so wisly* God my soule bless. 

Mine eares ache for thy drafty* speech. 

Now such a rhyme the devil I beteche:* 

This may well be rhyme doggerel," quoth he. 

"Why so?" quoth I; "why wilt thou lette* me 

More of my tale than any other man. 

Since that it is the best rhyme that I can?"* 

"By God!" quoth he, "for, plainly at one word. 

Thy drafty rhyming is not worth a tord: 

Thou dost naught elles but dispendest* time. 

Sir, at one word, thou shalt no longer rhyme. 

Let see whether thou canst tellen aught *in gest,* 

Or tell in prose somewhat, at the least. 

In which there be some mirth or some doctrine." 

"Gladly," quoth I, "by Godde's sweete pine,* 

I will you tell a little thing in prose. 

That oughte like* you, as I suppose. 

Or else certes ye be too dangerous.* 

It is a moral tale virtuous, 

*A11 be it* told sometimes in sundry wise 

*stupidity, ignorance < 1 > 
*worthless <2> 
*commend to 




*by way of 



*although it be* 

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By sundry folk, as I shall you devise. 

As thus, ye wot that ev'ry Evangelist, 

That telleth us the pain* of Jesus Christ, 

He saith not all thing as his fellow doth; 

But natheless their sentence is all soth,* 

And all accorden as in their sentence,* 

All be there in their telling difference; 

For some of them say more, and some say less. 

When they his piteous passion express; 

I mean of Mark and Matthew, Luke and John; 

But doubteless their sentence is all one. 

Therefore, lordinges all, I you beseech. 

If that ye think I vary in my speech. 

As thus, though that I telle somedeal more 

Of proverbes, than ye have heard before 

Comprehended in this little treatise here, 

*T'enforce with* the effect of my mattere. 

And though I not the same wordes say 

As ye have heard, yet to you all I pray 

Blame me not; for as in my sentence 

Shall ye nowhere fmde no difference 

From the sentence of thilke* treatise lite,** 

After the which this merry tale I write. 

And therefore hearken to what I shall say. 

And let me tellen all my tale, I pray." 



*with which to 

*this **little 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

The Tale. 

A young man called Meliboeus, mighty and rich, begat upon his 
wife, that called was Prudence, a daughter which that called was 
Sophia. Upon a day befell, that he for his disport went into the 
fields him to play His wife and eke his daughter hath he left 
within his house, of which the doors were fast shut. Three of his 
old foes have it espied, and set ladders to the walls of his house, 
and by the windows be entered, and beaten his wife, and 
wounded his daughter with five mortal wounds, in five sundry 
places; that is to say, in her feet, in her hands, in her ears, in her 
nose, and in her mouth; and left her for dead, and went away. 
When Meliboeus returned was into his house, and saw all this 
mischief, he, like a man mad, rending his clothes, gan weep and 
cry. Prudence his wife, as farforth as she durst, besought him of 
his weeping for to stint: but not forthy [notwithstanding] he gan 
to weep and cry ever longer the more. 

This noble wife Prudence remembered her upon the sentence of 
Ovid, in his book that called is the "Remedy of Love," <2> 
where he saith: He is a fool that disturbeth the mother to weep 
in the death of her child, till she have wept her fill, as for a 
certain time; and then shall a man do his diligence with amiable 
words her to recomfort and pray her of her weeping for to stint 
[cease]. For which reason this noble wife Prudence suffered her 
husband for to weep and cry, as for a certain space; and when 
she saw her time, she said to him in this wise: "Alas! my lord," 
quoth she, "why make ye yourself for to be like a fool? For 
sooth it appertaineth not to a wise man to make such a sorrow. 
Your daughter, with the grace of God, shall warish [be cured] 
and escape. And all [although] were it so that she right now 
were dead, ye ought not for her death yourself to destroy. 
Seneca saith. The wise man shall not take too great discomfort 
for the death of his children, but certes he should suffer it in 

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patience, as well as he abideth the death of his own proper 

Meliboeus answered anon and said: "What man," quoth he, 
"should of his weeping stint, that hath so great a cause to weep? 
Jesus Christ, our Lord, himself wept for the death of Lazarus 
his friend." Prudence answered, "Certes, well I wot, 
attempered [moderate] weeping is nothing defended [forbidden] 
to him that sorrowful is, among folk in sorrow but it is rather 
granted him to weep. The Apostle Paul unto the Romans 
writeth, 'Man shall rejoice with them that make joy, and weep 
with such folk as weep.' But though temperate weeping be 
granted, outrageous weeping certes is defended. Measure of 
weeping should be conserved, after the lore [doctrine] that 
teacheth us Seneca. 'When that thy friend is dead,' quoth he, 'let 
not thine eyes too moist be of tears, nor too much dry: although 
the tears come to thine eyes, let them not fall. And when thou 
hast forgone [lost] thy friend, do diligence to get again another 
friend: and this is more wisdom than to weep for thy friend 
which that thou hast lorn [lost] for therein is no boot 
[advantage]. And therefore if ye govern you by sapience, put 
away sorrow out of your heart. Remember you that Jesus 
Sirach saith, 'A man that is joyous and glad in heart, it him 
conserveth flourishing in his age: but soothly a sorrowful heart 
maketh his bones dry' He said eke thus, 'that sorrow in heart 
slayth full many a man.' Solomon saith 'that right as moths in 
the sheep's fleece annoy [do injury] to the clothes, and the small 
worms to the tree, right so annoyeth sorrow to the heart of 
man.' Wherefore us ought as well in the death of our children, 
as in the loss of our goods temporal, have patience. Remember 
you upon the patient Job, when he had lost his children and his 
temporal substance, and in his body endured and received full 
many a grievous tribulation, yet said he thus: 'Our Lord hath 
given it to me, our Lord hath bereft it me; right as our Lord 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

would, right so be it done; blessed be the name of our Lord."' 

To these foresaid things answered Meliboeus unto his wife 
Prudence: "All thy words," quoth he, "be true, and thereto 
[also] profitable, but truly mine heart is troubled with this 
sorrow so grievously, that I know not what to do." "Let call," 
quoth Prudence, "thy true friends all, and thy lineage, which be 
wise, and tell to them your case, and hearken what they say in 
counselling, and govern you after their sentence [opinion]. 
Solomon saith, 'Work all things by counsel, and thou shall never 
repent.'" Then, by counsel of his wife Prudence, this Meliboeus 
let call [sent for] a great congregation of folk, as surgeons, 
physicians, old folk and young, and some of his old enemies 
reconciled (as by their semblance) to his love and to his grace; 
and therewithal there come some of his neighbours, that did him 
reverence more for dread than for love, as happeneth oft. There 
come also full many subtle flatterers, and wise advocates 
learned in the law. And when these folk together assembled 
were, this Meliboeus in sorrowful wise showed them his case, 
and by the manner of his speech it seemed that in heart he bare 
a cruel ire, ready to do vengeance upon his foes, and suddenly 
desired that the war should begin, but nevertheless yet asked he 
their counsel in this matter. A surgeon, by licence and assent of 
such as were wise, up rose, and to Meliboeus said as ye may 
hear. "Sir," quoth he, "as to us surgeons appertaineth, that we 
do to every wight the best that we can, where as we be 
withholden, [employed] and to our patient that we do no 
damage; wherefore it happeneth many a time and oft, that when 
two men have wounded each other, one same surgeon healeth 
them both; wherefore unto our art it is not pertinent to nurse 
war, nor parties to support [take sides]. But certes, as to the 
warishing [healing] of your daughter, albeit so that perilously 
she be wounded, we shall do so attentive business from day to 
night, that, with the grace of God, she shall be whole and 

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sound, as soon as is possible." Almost right in the same wise the 
physicians answered, save that they said a few words more: that 
right as maladies be cured by their contraries, right so shall man 
warish war (by peace). His neighbours full of envy, his feigned 
friends that seemed reconciled, and his flatterers, made 
semblance of weeping, and impaired and agregged [aggravated] 
much of this matter, in praising greatly Meliboeus of might, of 
power, of riches, and of friends, despising the power of his 
adversaries: and said utterly, that he anon should wreak him on 
his foes, and begin war. 

Up rose then an advocate that was wise, by leave and by 
counsel of other that were wise, and said, "Lordings, the need 
[business] for which we be assembled in this place, is a full 
heavy thing, and an high matter, because of the wrong and of 
the wickedness that hath been done, and eke by reason of the 
great damages that in time coming be possible to fall for the 
same cause, and eke by reason of the great riches and power of 
the parties both; for which reasons, it were a full great peril to 
err in this matter. Wherefore, Meliboeus, this is our sentence 
[opinion]; we counsel you, above all things, that right anon thou 
do thy diligence in keeping of thy body, in such a wise that thou 
want no espy nor watch thy body to save. And after that, we 
counsel that in thine house thou set sufficient garrison, so that 
they may as well thy body as thy house defend. But, certes, to 
move war or suddenly to do vengeance, we may not deem 
[judge] in so little time that it were profitable. Wherefore we 
ask leisure and space to have deliberation in this case to deem; 
for the common proverb saith thus; 'He that soon deemeth soon 
shall repent.' And eke men say, that that judge is wise, that soon 
understandeth a matter, and judgeth by leisure. For albeit so 
that all tarrying be annoying, algates [nevertheless] it is no 
reproof [subject for reproach] in giving of judgement, nor in 
vengeance taking, when it is sufficient and, reasonable. And 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

that shewed our Lord Jesus Christ by example; for when that 
the woman that was taken in adultery was brought in his 
presence to know what should be done with her person, albeit 
that he wist well himself what he would answer, yet would he 
not answer suddenly, but he would have deliberation, and in the 
ground he wrote twice. And by these causes we ask deliberation 
and we shall then by the grace of God counsel the thing that 
shall be profitable." 

Up started then the young folk anon at once, and the most part 
of that company have scorned these old wise men and begun to 
make noise and said, "Right as while that iron is hot men should 
smite, right so men should wreak their wrongs while that they 
be fresh and new:" and with loud voice they cried. "War! War!" 
Up rose then one of these old wise, and with his hand made 
countenance [a sign, gesture] that men should hold them still, 
and give him audience. "Lordings," quoth he, "there is full many 
a man that crieth, 'War! war!' that wot full little what war 
amounteth. War at his beginning hath so great an entering and 
so large, that every wight may enter when him liketh, and lightly 
[easily] fmd war: but certes what end shall fall thereof it is not 
light to know. For soothly when war is once begun, there is full 
many a child unborn of his mother, that shall sterve [die] young 
by cause of that war, or else live in sorrow and die in 
wretchedness; and therefore, ere that any war be begun, men 
must have great counsel and great deliberation." And when this 
old man weened [thought, intended] to enforce his tale by 
reasons, well-nigh all at once began they to rise for to break his 
tale, and bid him full oft his words abridge. For soothly he that 
preacheth to them that list not hear his words, his sermon them 
annoyeth. For Jesus Sirach saith, that music in weeping is a 
noyous [troublesome] thing. This is to say, as much availeth to 
speak before folk to whom his speech annoyeth, as to sing 
before him that weepeth. And when this wise man saw that him 

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wanted audience, all shamefast he sat him down again. For 
Solomon saith, 'Where as thou mayest have no audience, 
enforce thee not to speak.' "I see well," quoth this wise man, 
"that the common proverb is sooth, that good counsel wanteth, 
when it is most need." Yet [besides, further] had this Meliboeus 
in his council many folk, that privily in his ear counselled him 
certain thing, and counselled him the contrary in general 
audience. When Meliboeus had heard that the greatest part of 
his council were accorded [in agreement] that he should make 
war, anon he consented to their counselling, and fully affirmed 
their sentence [opinion, judgement]. 

(Dame Prudence, seeing her husband's resolution thus taken, in 
full humble wise, when she saw her time, begins to counsel him 
against war, by a warning against haste in requital of either 
good or evil. Meliboeus tells her that he will not work by her 
counsel, because he should be held a fool if he rejected for her 
advice the opinion of so many wise men; because all women are 
bad; because it would seem that he had given her the mastery 
over him; and because she could not keep his secret, if he 
resolved to follow her advice. To these reasons Prudence 
answers that it is no folly to change counsel when things, or 
men's judgements of them, change — especially to alter a 
resolution taken on the impulse of a great multitude of folk, 
where every man crieth and clattereth what him liketh; that if all 
women had been wicked, Jesus Christ would never have 
descended to be born of a woman, nor have showed himself 
first to a woman after his resurrection and that when Solomon 
said he had found no good woman, he meant that God alone 
was supremely good; <3> that her husband would not seem to 
give her the mastery by following her counsel, for he had his 
own free choice in following or rejecting it; and that he knew 
well and had often tested her great silence, patience, and 
secrecy. And whereas he had quoted a saying, that in wicked 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

counsel women vanquish men, she reminds him that she would 
counsel him against doing a wickedness on which he had set his 
mind, and cites instances to show that many women have been 
and yet are full good, and their counsel wholesome and 
profitable. Lastly, she quotes the words of God himself, when 
he was about to make woman as an help meet for man; and 
promises that, if her husband will trust her counsel, she will 
restore to him his daughter whole and sound, and make him 
have honour in this case. Meliboeus answers that because of his 
wife's sweet words, and also because he has proved and assayed 
her great wisdom and her great truth, he will govern him by her 
counsel in all things. Thus encouraged. Prudence enters on a 
long discourse, full of learned citations, regarding the manner in 
which counsellors should be chosen and consulted, and the 
times and reasons for changing a counsel. First, God must be 
besought for guidance. Then a man must well examine his own 
thoughts, of such things as he holds to be best for his own 
profit; driving out of his heart anger, covetousness, and 
hastiness, which perturb and pervert the judgement. Then he 
must keep his counsel secret, unless confiding it to another shall 
be more profitable; but, in so confiding it, he shall say nothing 
to bias the mind of the counsellor toward flattery or 
subserviency. After that he should consider his friends and his 
enemies, choosing of the former such as be most faithful and 
wise, and eldest and most approved in counselling; and even of 
these only a few. Then he must eschew the counselling of fools, 
of flatterers, of his old enemies that be reconciled, of servants 
who bear him great reverence and fear, of folk that be drunken 
and can hide no counsel, of such as counsel one thing privily 
and the contrary openly; and of young folk, for their counselling 
is not ripe. Then, in examining his counsel, he must truly tell his 
tale; he must consider whether the thing he proposes to do be 
reasonable, within his power, and acceptable to the more part 
and the better part of his counsellors; he must look at the things 

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that may follow from that counselling, choosing the best and 
waiving all besides; he must consider the root whence the 
matter of his counsel is engendered, what fruits it may bear, 
and from what causes they be sprung. And having thus 
examined his counsel and approved it by many wise folk and 
old, he shall consider if he may perform it and make of it a good 
end; if he be in doubt, he shall choose rather to suffer than to 
begin; but otherwise he shall prosecute his resolution steadfastly 
till the enterprise be at an end. As to changing his counsel, a 
man may do so without reproach, if the cause cease, or when a 
new case betides, or if he find that by error or otherwise harm 
or damage may result, or if his counsel be dishonest or come of 
dishonest cause, or if it be impossible or may not properly be 
kept; and he must take it for a general rule, that every counsel 
which is affirmed so strongly, that it may not be changed for 
any condition that may betide, that counsel is wicked. 
Meliboeus, admitting that his wife had spoken well and suitably 
as to counsellors and counsel in general, prays her to tell him in 
especial what she thinks of the counsellors whom they have 
chosen in their present need. Prudence replies that his counsel in 
this case could not properly be called a counselling, but a 
movement of folly; and points out that he has erred in sundry 
wise against the rules which he had just laid down. Granting 
that he has erred, Meliboeus says that he is all ready to change 
his counsel right as she will devise; for, as the proverb runs, to 
do sin is human, but to persevere long in sin is work of the 
Devil. Prudence then minutely recites, analyses, and criticises 
the counsel given to her husband in the assembly of his friends. 
She commends the advice of the physicians and surgeons, and 
urges that they should be well rewarded for their noble speech 
and their services in healing Sophia; and she asks Meliboeus 
how he understands their proposition that one contrary must be 
cured by another contrary. Meliboeus answers, that he should 
do vengeance on his enemies, who had done him wrong. 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Prudence, however, insists that vengeance is not the contrary of 
vengeance, nor wrong of wrong, but the like; and that 
wickedness should be healed by goodness, discord by accord, 
war by peace. She proceeds to deal with the counsel of the 
lawyers and wise folk that advised Meliboeus to take prudent 
measures for the security of his body and of his house. First, she 
would have her husband pray for the protection and aid of 
Christ; then commit the keeping of his person to his true 
friends; then suspect and avoid all strange folk, and liars, and 
such people as she had already warned him against; then beware 
of presuming on his strength, or the weakness of his adversary, 
and neglecting to guard his person — for every wise man 
dreadeth his enemy; then he should evermore be on the watch 
against ambush and all espial, even in what seems a place of 
safety; though he should not be so cowardly, as to fear where is 
no cause for dread; yet he should dread to be poisoned, and 
therefore shun scorners, and fly their words as venom. As to 
the fortification of his house, she points out that towers and 
great edifices are costly and laborious, yet useless unless 
defended by true friends that be old and wise; and the greatest 
and strongest garrison that a rich man may have, as well to keep 
his person as his goods, is, that he be beloved by his subjects 
and by his neighbours. Warmly approving the counsel that in all 
this business Meliboeus should proceed with great diligence and 
deliberation. Prudence goes on to examine the advice given by 
his neighbours that do him reverence without love, his old 
enemies reconciled, his flatterers that counselled him certain 
things privily and openly counselled him the contrary, and the 
young folk that counselled him to avenge himself and make war 
at once. She reminds him that he stands alone against three 
powerful enemies, whose kindred are numerous and close, 
while his are fewer and remote in relationship; that only the 
judge who has jurisdiction in a case may take sudden vengeance 
on any man; that her husband's power does not accord with his 

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desire; and that, if he did take vengeance, it would only breed 
fresh wrongs and contests. As to the causes of the wrong done 
to him, she holds that God, the causer of all things, has 
permitted him to suffer because he has drunk so much honey 
<4> of sweet temporal riches, and delights, and honours of this 
world, that he is drunken, and has forgotten Jesus Christ his 
Saviour; the three enemies of mankind, the flesh, the fiend, and 
the world, have entered his heart by the windows of his body, 
and wounded his soul in five places — that is to say, the deadly 
sins that have entered into his heart by the five senses; and in 
the same manner Christ has suffered his three enemies to enter 
his house by the windows, and wound his daughter in the five 
places before specified. Meliboeus demurs, that if his wife's 
objections prevailed, vengeance would never be taken, and 
thence great mischiefs would arise; but Prudence replies that the 
taking of vengeance lies with the judges, to whom the private 
individual must have recourse. Meliboeus declares that such 
vengeance does not please him, and that, as Fortune has 
nourished and helped him from his childhood, he will now assay 
her, trusting, with God's help, that she will aid him to avenge his 
shame. Prudence warns him against trusting to Fortune, all the 
less because she has hitherto favoured him, for just on that 
account she is the more likely to fail him; and she calls on him 
to leave his vengeance with the Sovereign Judge, that avengeth 
all villainies and wrongs. Meliboeus argues that if he refrains 
from taking vengeance he will invite his enemies to do him 
further wrong, and he will be put and held over low; but 
Prudence contends that such a result can be brought about only 
by the neglect of the judges, not by the patience of the 
individual. Supposing that he had leave to avenge himself, she 
repeats that he is not strong enough, and quotes the common 
saw, that it is madness for a man to strive with a stronger than 
himself, peril to strive with one of equal strength, and folly to 
strive with a weaker. But, considering his own defaults and 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

demerits, — remembering the patience of Christ and the 
undeserved tribulations of the saints, the brevity of this life w^ith 
all its trouble and sorrow^, the discredit throw^n on the w^isdom 
and training of a man w^ho cannot bear w^rong w^ith patience — 
he should refrain w^holly from taking vengeance. Meliboeus 
submits that he is not at all a perfect man, and his heart w^ill 
never be at peace until he is avenged; and that as his enemies 
disregarded the peril w^hen they attacked him, so he might, 
w^ithout reproach, incur some peril in attacking them in return, 
even though he did a great excess in avenging one w^rong by 
another. Prudence strongly deprecates all outrage or excess; but 
Meliboeus insists that he cannot see that it might greatly harm 
him though he took a vengeance, for he is richer and mightier 
than his enemies, and all things obey money. Prudence 
thereupon launches into a long dissertation on the advantages of 
riches, the evils of poverty, the means by w^hich w^ealth should 
be gathered, and the manner in w^hich it should be used; and 
concludes by counselling her husband not to move w^ar and 
battle through trust in his riches, for they suffice not to maintain 
w^ar, the battle is not aWays to the strong or the numerous, and 
the perils of conflict are many. Meliboeus then curtly asks her 
for her counsel how^ he shall do in this need; and she answ^ers 
that certainly she counsels him to agree w^ith his adversaries and 
have peace w^ith them. Meliboeus on this cries out that plainly 
she loves not his honour or his w^orship, in counselling him to 
go and humble himself before his enemies, crying mercy to them 
that, having done him so grievous w^rong, ask him not to be 
reconciled. Then Prudence, making semblance of w^rath, retorts 
that she loves his honour and profit as she loves her ow^n, and 
ever has done; she cites the Scriptures in support of her counsel 
to seek peace; and says she w^ill leave him to his ow^n courses, 
for she know^s w^ell he is so stubborn, that he w^ill do nothing for 
her. Meliboeus then relents; admits that he is angry and cannot 
judge aright; and puts himself w^holly in her hands, promising to 

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do just as she desires, and admitting that he is the more held to 
love and praise her, if she reproves him of his folly) 

Then Dame Prudence discovered all her counsel and her w^ill 
unto him, and said: "I counsel you," quoth she, "above all 
things, that ye make peace betw^een God and you, and be 
reconciled unto Him and to his grace; for, as I have said to you 
herebefore, God hath suffered you to have this tribulation and 
disease [distress, trouble] for your sins; and if ye do as I say 
you, God w^ill send your adversaries unto you, and make them 
fall at your feet, ready to do your w^ill and your commandment. 
For Solomon saith, 'When the condition of man is pleasant and 
liking to God, he changeth the hearts of the man's adversaries, 
and constraineth them to beseech him of peace of grace.' And I 
pray you let me speak w^ith your adversaries in privy place, for 
they shall not know^ it is by your w^ill or your assent; and then, 
w^hen I know^ their w^ill and their intent, I may counsel you the 
more surely." '"Dame," quoth Meliboeus, '"do your w^ill and 
your liking, for I put me w^holly in your disposition and 

Then Dame Prudence, w^hen she saw^ the goodw^ill of her 
husband, deliberated and took advice in herself, thinking how^ 
she might bring this need [affair, emergency] unto a good end. 
And w^hen she saw^ her time, she sent for these adversaries to 
come into her into a privy place, and show^ed w^isely into them 
the great goods that come of peace, and the great harms and 
perils that be in vv^ar; and said to them, in goodly manner, ]iow 
that they ought have great repentance of the injuries and 
w^rongs that they had done to Meliboeus her Lord, and unto her 
and her daughter. And w^hen they heard the goodly w^ords of 
Dame Prudence, then they w^ere surprised and ravished, and had 
so great joy of her, that w^onder w^as to tell. "Ah lady!" quoth 
they, "ye have show^ed unto us the blessing of sw^eetness, after 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

the saying of David the prophet; for the reconciling which we 
be not worthy to have in no manner, but we ought require it 
with great contrition and humility, ye of your great goodness 
have presented unto us. Now see we well, that the science and 
conning [knowledge] of Solomon is full true; for he saith, that 
sweet words multiply and increase friends, and make shrews 
[the ill-natured or angry] to be debonair [gentle, courteous] and 
meek. Certes we put our deed, and all our matter and cause, all 
wholly in your goodwill, and be ready to obey unto the speech 
and commandment of my lord Meliboeus. And therefore, dear 
and benign lady, we pray you and beseech you as meekly as we 
can and may, that it like unto your great goodness to fulfil in 
deed your goodly words. For we consider and acknowledge 
that we have offended and grieved my lord Meliboeus out of 
measure, so far forth that we be not of power to make him 
amends; and therefore we oblige and bind us and our friends to 
do all his will and his commandment. But peradventure he hath 
such heaviness and such wrath to usward, [towards us] because 
of our offence, that he will enjoin us such a pain [penalty] as we 
may not bear nor sustain; and therefore, noble lady, we beseech 
to your womanly pity to take such advisement [consideration] 
in this need, that we, nor our friends, be not disinherited and 
destroyed through our folly." 

"Certes," quoth Prudence, "it is an hard thing, and right 
perilous, that a man put him all utterly in the arbitration and 
judgement and in the might and power of his enemy. For 
Solomon saith, 'Believe me, and give credence to that that I 
shall say: to thy son, to thy wife, to thy friend, nor to thy 
brother, give thou never might nor mastery over thy body, while 
thou livest.' Now, since he defendeth [forbiddeth] that a man 
should not give to his brother, nor to his friend, the might of his 
body, by a stronger reason he defendeth and forbiddeth a man 
to give himself to his enemy. And nevertheless, I counsel you 

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that ye mistrust not my lord: for I wot well and know verily, 
that he is debonair and meek, large, courteous and nothing 
desirous nor envious of good nor riches: for there is nothing in 
this world that he desireth save only worship and honour. 
Furthermore I know well, and am right sure, that he shall 
nothing do in this need without counsel of me; and I shall so 
work in this case, that by the grace of our Lord God ye shall be 
reconciled unto us." 

Then said they with one voice, ""Worshipful lady, we put us 
and our goods all fully in your will and disposition, and be ready 
to come, what day that it like unto your nobleness to limit us or 
assign us, for to make our obligation and bond, as strong as it 
liketh unto your goodness, that we may fulfil the will of you and 
of my lord Meliboeus." 

When Dame Prudence had heard the answer of these men, she 
bade them go again privily, and she returned to her lord 
Meliboeus, and told him how she found his adversaries full 
repentant, acknowledging full lowly their sins and trespasses, 
and how they were ready to suffer all pain, requiring and 
praying him of mercy and pity. Then said Meliboeus, "He is well 
worthy to have pardon and forgiveness of his sin, that excuseth 
not his sin, but acknowledgeth, and repenteth him, asking 
indulgence. For Seneca saith, 'There is the remission and 
forgiveness, where the confession is; for confession is neighbour 
to innocence.' And therefore I assent and confirm me to have 
peace, but it is good that we do naught without the assent and 
will of our friends." Then was Prudence right glad and joyful, 
and said, "Certes, Sir, ye be well and goodly advised; for right 
as by the counsel, assent, and help of your friends ye have been 
stirred to avenge you and make war, right so without their 
counsel shall ye not accord you, nor have peace with your 
adversaries. For the law saith, 'There is nothing so good byway 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

of kind, [nature] as a thing to be unbound by him that it was 

And then Dame Prudence, without delay or tarrying, sent anon 
her messengers for their kin and for their old friends, which 
were true and wise; and told them by order, in the presence of 
Meliboeus, all this matter, as it is above expressed and declared; 
and prayed them that they would give their advice and counsel 
what were best to do in this need. And when Meliboeus' friends 
had taken their advice and deliberation of the foresaid matter, 
and had examined it by great business and great diligence, they 
gave full counsel for to have peace and rest, and that Meliboeus 
should with good heart receive his adversaries to forgiveness 
and mercy. And when Dame Prudence had heard the assent of 
her lord Meliboeus, and the counsel of his friends, accord with 
her will and her intention, she was wondrous glad in her heart, 
and said: "There is an old proverb that saith. The goodness that 
thou mayest do this day, do it, and abide not nor delay it not till 
to-morrow:' and therefore I counsel you that ye send your 
messengers, such as be discreet and wise, unto your adversaries, 
telling them on your behalf, that if they will treat of peace and 
of accord, that they shape [prepare] them, without delay or 
tarrying, to come unto us." Which thing performed was indeed. 
And when these trespassers and repenting folk of their follies, 
that is to say, the adversaries of Meliboeus, had heard what 
these messengers said unto them, they were right glad and 
joyful, and answered full meekly and benignly, yielding graces 
and thanks to their lord Meliboeus, and to all his company; and 
shaped them without delay to go with the messengers, and obey 
to the commandment of their lord Meliboeus. And right anon 
they took their way to the court of Meliboeus, and took with 
them some of their true friends, to make faith for them, and for 
to be their borrows [sureties]. 

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And when they were come to the presence of Meliboeus, he 
said to them these words; "It stands thus," quoth Meliboeus, 
"and sooth it is, that ye causeless, and without skill and reason, 
have done great injuries and wrongs to me, and to my wife 
Prudence, and to my daughter also; for ye have entered into my 
house by violence, and have done such outrage, that all men 
know well that ye have deserved the death: and therefore will I 
know and weet of you, whether ye will put the punishing and 
chastising, and the vengeance of this outrage, in the will of me 
and of my wife, or ye will not?" Then the wisest of them three 
answered for them all, and said; "Sir," quoth he, "we know well, 
that we be I unworthy to come to the court of so great a lord 
and so worthy as ye be, for we have so greatly mistaken us, and 
have offended and aguilt [incurred guilt] in such wise against 
your high lordship, that truly we have deserved the death. But 
yet for the great goodness and debonairte [courtesy, gentleness] 
that all the world witnesseth of your person, we submit us to 
the excellence and benignity of your gracious lordship, and be 
ready to obey to all your commandments, beseeching you, that 
of your merciable [merciful] pity ye will consider our great 
repentance and low submission, and grant us forgiveness of our 
outrageous trespass and offence; for well we know, that your 
liberal grace and mercy stretch them farther into goodness, than 
do our outrageous guilt and trespass into wickedness; albeit that 
cursedly [wickedly] and damnably we have aguilt [incurred 
guilt] against your high lordship. "Then Meliboeus took them 
up from the ground full benignly, and received their obligations 
and their bonds, by their oaths upon their pledges and borrows, 
[sureties] and assigned them a certain day to return unto his 
court for to receive and accept sentence and judgement, that 
Meliboeus would command to be done on them, by the causes 
aforesaid; which things ordained, every man returned home to 
his house. 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And when that Dame Prudence saw her time she freined 
[inquired] and asked her lord Meliboeus, what vengeance he 
thought to take of his adversaries. To which Meliboeus 
answered, and said; "Certes," quoth he, "I think and purpose me 
fully to disinherit them of all that ever they have, and for to put 
them in exile for evermore." "Certes," quoth Dame Prudence, 
"this were a cruel sentence, and much against reason. For ye be 
rich enough, and have no need of other men's goods; and ye 
might lightly [easily] in this wise get you a covetous name, 
which is a vicious thing, and ought to be eschewed of every 
good man: for, after the saying of the Apostle, covetousness is 
root of all harms. And therefore it were better for you to lose 
much good of your own, than for to take of their good in this 
manner. For better it is to lose good with worship [honour], 
than to win good with villainy and shame. And every man ought 
to do his diligence and his business to get him a good name. 
And yet [further] shall he not only busy him in keeping his good 
name, but he shall also enforce him alway to do some thing by 
which he may renew his good name; for it is written, that the 
old good los [reputation <5>] of a man is soon gone and 
passed, when it is not renewed. And as touching that ye say, 
that ye will exile your adversaries, that thinketh ye much against 
reason, and out of measure, [moderation] considered the power 
that they have given you upon themselves. And it is written, 
that he is worthy to lose his privilege, that misuseth the might 
and the power that is given him. And I set case [if I assume] ye 
might enjoin them that pain by right and by law (which I trow 
ye may not do), I say, ye might not put it to execution 
peradventure, and then it were like to return to the war, as it 
was before. And therefore if ye will that men do you obeisance, 
ye must deem [decide] more courteously, that is to say, ye must 
give more easy sentences and judgements. For it is written, 'He 
that most courteously commandeth, to him men most obey' 
And therefore I pray you, that in this necessity and in this need 

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ye cast you [endeavour, devise a way] to overcome your heart. 
For Seneca saith, that he that overcometh his heart, overcometh 
twice. AndTullius saith, 'There is nothing so commendable in a 
great lord, as when he is debonair and meek, and appeaseth him 
lightly [easily].' And I pray you, that ye will now forbear to do 
vengeance, in such a manner, that your good name maybe kept 
and conserved, and that men may have cause and matter to 
praise you of pity and of mercy; and that ye have no cause to 
repent you of thing that ye do. For Seneca saith, 'He 
overcometh in an evil manner, that repenteth him of his victory' 
Wherefore I pray you let mercy be in your heart, to the effect 
and intent that God Almighty have mercy upon you in his last 
judgement; for Saint James saith in his Epistle, 'Judgement 
without mercy shall be done to him, that hath no mercy of 
another wight.'" 

When Meliboeus had heard the great skills [arguments, reasons] 
and reasons of Dame Prudence, and her wise information and 
teaching, his heart gan incline to the will of his wife, considering 
her true intent, he conformed him anon and assented fully to 
work after her counsel, and thanked God, of whom proceedeth 
all goodness and all virtue, that him sent a wife of so great 
discretion. And when the day came that his adversaries should 
appear in his presence, he spake to them full goodly, and said in 
this wise; "Albeit so, that of your pride and high presumption 
and folly, an of your negligence and unconning, [ignorance] ye 
have misborne [misbehaved] you, and trespassed [done injury] 
unto me, yet forasmuch as I see and behold your great humility, 
and that ye be sorry and repentant of your guilts, it constraineth 
me to do you grace and mercy. Wherefore I receive you into my 
grace, and forgive you utterly all the offences, injuries, and 
wrongs, that ye have done against me and mine, to this effect 
and to this end, that God of his endless mercy will at the time of 
our dying forgive us our guilts, that we have trespassed to him 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

in this wretched world; for doubtless, if we be sorry and 
repentant of the sins and guilts which we have trespassed in the 
sight of our Lord God, he is so free and so merciable [merciful], 
that he will forgive us our guilts, and bring us to the bliss that 
never hath end." Amen. 


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The Prologue. 

WHEN ended was my tale of Melibee, 
And of Prudence and her benignity. 
Our Hoste said, "As I am faithful man. 
And by the precious corpus Madrian,< 1 > 
I had lever* than a barrel of ale. 
That goode lefe* my wife had heard this tale; 
For she is no thing of such patience 
As was this Meliboeus' wife Prudence. 
By Godde's bones! when I beat my knaves 
She bringeth me the greate clubbed staves. 
And crieth, 'Slay the dogges every one. 
And break of them both back and ev'ry bone.' 
And if that any neighebour of mine 
Will not in church unto my wife incline. 
Or be so hardy to her to trespace,* 
When she comes home she rampeth* in my face. 
And crieth, 'False coward, wreak* thy wife 
By corpus Domini, I will have thy knife. 
And thou shalt have my distaff, and go spin.' 
From day till night right thus she will begin. 
'Alas!' she saith, 'that ever I was shape* 
To wed a milksop, or a coward ape. 
That will be overlad* with every wight! 






*imposed on 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Thou darest not stand by thy wife's right.' 

"This is my life, *but if that I will fight; *unless 

And out at door anon I must me dight,* *betake myself 

Or elles I am lost, but if that I 

Be, like a wilde lion, fool-hardy 

I wot well she will do* me slay some day *make 

Some neighebour and thenne *go my way;* *take to flight* 

For I am perilous with knife in hand. 

Albeit that I dare not her withstand; 

For she is big in armes, by my faith! 

That shall he fmd, that her misdoth or saith. <2> 

But let us pass away from this mattere. 

My lord the Monk," quoth he, "be merry of cheer. 

For ye shall tell a tale truely 

Lo, Rochester stands here faste by 

Ride forth, mine owen lord, break not our game. 

But by my troth I cannot tell your name; 

Whether shall I call you my lord Dan John, 

Or Dan Thomas, or elles Dan Albon? 

Of what house be ye, by your father's kin? 

I vow to God, thou hast a full fair skin; 

It is a gentle pasture where thou go'st; 

Thou art not like a penant* or a ghost. *penitent 

Upon my faith thou art some officer. 

Some worthy sexton, or some cellarer. 

For by my father's soul, *as to my dome,* *in my judgement* 

Thou art a master when thou art at home; 

No poore cloisterer, nor no novice. 

But a governor, both wily and wise. 

And therewithal, of brawnes* and of bones, *sinews 

A right well-faring person for the nonce. 

I pray to God give him confusion 

That first thee brought into religion. 

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Thou would'st have been a treade-fowl* aright; *cock 

Hadst thou as greate leave, as thou hast might. 

To perform all thy lust in engendrure,* *generation, begettting 

Thou hadst begotten many a creature. 

Alas! why wearest thou so wide a cope? <3> 

God give me sorrow, but, an* I were pope, *if 

Not only thou, but every mighty man. 

Though he were shorn full high upon his pan,* <4> *crown 

Should have a wife; for all this world is lorn;* *undone, ruined 

Religion hath ta'en up all the corn 

Of treading, and we borel* men be shrimps: *lay 

Of feeble trees there come wretched imps.* *shoots <5> 

This maketh that our heires be so slender 

And feeble, that they may not well engender. 

This maketh that our wives will assay 

Religious folk, for they may better pay 

Of Venus' payementes than may we: 

God wot, no lusheburghes <6> paye ye. 

But be not wroth, my lord, though that I play; 

Full oft in game a sooth have I heard say." 

This worthy Monk took all in patience. 
And said, "I will do all my diligence. 
As far as *souneth unto honesty,* 
To telle you a tale, or two or three. 
And if you list to hearken hitherward, 
I will you say the life of Saint Edward; 
Or elles first tragedies I will tell. 
Of which I have an hundred in my cell. 
Tragedy *is to say* a certain story. 
As olde bookes maken us memory. 
Of him that stood in great prosperity. 
And is y- fallen out of high degree 
In misery, and endeth wretchedly. 

^agrees with good manners* 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And they be versified commonly 

Of six feet, which men call hexametron; 

In prose eke* be indited many a one, *also 

And eke in metre, in many a sundry wise. 

Lo, this declaring ought enough suffice. 

Now hearken, if ye like for to hear. 

But first I you beseech in this mattere. 

Though I by order telle not these things. 

Be it of popes, emperors, or kings, 

*After their ages,* as men written find, *in chronological order* 

But tell them some before and some behind. 

As it now Cometh to my remembrance. 

Have me excused of mine ignorance." 

The Tale. 

I will bewail, in manner of tragedy. 
The harm of them that stood in high degree. 
And felle so, that there was no remedy 
To bring them out of their adversity. 
For, certain, when that Fortune list to flee. 
There may no man the course of her wheel hold: 
Let no man trust in blind prosperity; 
Beware by these examples true and old. 

At LUCIFER, though he an angel were. 

And not a man, at him I will begin. 

For though Fortune may no angel dere,* *hurt 

From high degree yet fell he for his sin 

Down into hell, where as he yet is in. 

O Lucifer! brightest of angels all. 

Now art thou Satanas, that may'st not twin* *depart 

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Out of the misery in which thou art fall. 

Lo ADAM, in the field of Damascene <2> 

With Godde's owen finger wrought was he. 

And not begotten of man's sperm unclean; 

And welt* all Paradise saving one tree: *commanded 

Had never worldly man so high degree 

As Adam, till he for misgovernance* *misbehaviour 

Was driven out of his prosperity 

To labour, and to hell, and to mischance. 

Lo SAMPSON, which that was annunciate 

By the angel, long ere his nativity; <3> 

And was to God Almighty consecrate. 

And stood in nobless while that he might see; 

Was never such another as was he. 

To speak of strength, and thereto hardiness;* *courage 

But to his wives told he his secre. 

Through which he slew himself for wretchedness. 

Sampson, this noble and mighty champion, 

Withoute weapon, save his handes tway. 

He slew and all to-rente* the lion, *tore to pieces 

Toward his wedding walking by the way. 

His false wife could him so please, and pray. 

Till she his counsel knew; and she, untrue. 

Unto his foes his counsel gan bewray. 

And him forsook, and took another new. 

Three hundred foxes Sampson took for ire. 
And all their tailes he together band. 
And set the foxes' tailes all on fire, 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

For he in every tail had knit a brand, 
And they burnt all the combs of that lend, 
And all their oliveres* and vines eke. 
A thousand men he slew eke with his hand. 
And had no weapon but an ass's cheek. 

*olive trees <4> 

When they were slain, so thirsted him, that he 

Was *well-nigh lorn,* for which he gan to pray *near to perishing* 

That God would on his pain have some pity. 

And send him drink, or elles must he die; 

And of this ass's check, that was so dry. 

Out of a wang-tooth* sprang anon a well, *cheek-tooth 

Of which, he drank enough, shortly to say. 

Thus help'd him God, as Judicum <5> can tell. 

By very force, at Gaza, on a night, 
Maugre* the Philistines of that city. 
The gates of the town he hath up plight,* 
And on his backy-carried them hath he 
High on an hill, where as men might them see. 
O noble mighty Sampson, lefe* and dear, 
Hadst thou not told to women thy secre. 
In all this world there had not been thy peer. 

*in spite of 
*plucked, wrenched 


This Sampson never cider drank nor wine. 
Nor on his head came razor none nor shear. 
By precept of the messenger divine; 
For all his strengthes in his haires were; 
And fully twenty winters, year by year. 
He had of Israel the governance; 
But soone shall he weepe many a tear. 
For women shall him bringe to mischance. 

Unto his leman* Dalila he told. 


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That in his haires all his strengthe lay; 

And falsely to his foemen she him sold. 

And sleeping in her barme* upon a day *lap 

She made to clip or shear his hair away. 

And made his foemen all his craft espien. 

And when they founde him in this array. 

They bound him fast, and put out both his eyen. 


But, ere his hair was clipped or y-shave. 

There was no bond with which men might him bind; 

But now is he in prison in a cave. 

Where as they made him at the querne* grind. 

O noble Sampson, strongest of mankind! 

O whilom judge in glory and ri chess! 

Now may'st thou weepe with thine eyen blind. 

Since thou from weal art fall'n to wretchedness. 

*mill <6> 

Th'end of this caitifP was as I shall say; 

His foemen made a feast upon a day. 

And made him as their fool before them play; 

And this was in a temple of great array. 

But at the last he made a foul affray. 

For he two pillars shook, and made them fall. 

And down fell temple and all, and there it lay. 

And slew himself and eke his foemen all; 

*wretched man 

This is to say, the princes every one; 

And eke three thousand bodies were there slain 

With falling of the great temple of stone. 

Of Sampson now will I no more sayn; 

Beware by this example old and plain. 

That no man tell his counsel to his wife 

Of such thing as he would *have secret fain,* 

If that it touch his limbes or his life. 

*wish to be secret* 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Of HERCULES the sov'reign conquerour 
Singe his workes' land and high renown; 
For in his time of strength he bare the flow'r. 
He slew and reft the skin of the lion 
He of the Centaurs laid the boast adown; 
He Harpies <7> slew, the cruel birdes fell; 
He golden apples reft from the dragon 
He drew out Cerberus the hound of hell. 

He slew the cruel tyrant Busirus. <8> 

And made his horse to fret* him flesh and bone; 

He slew the fiery serpent venomous; 

Of Achelous' two homes brake he one. 

And he slew Cacus in a cave of stone; 

He slew the giant Antaeus the strong; 

He slew the grisly boar, and that anon; 

And bare the heav'n upon his necke long. <9> 

Was never wight, since that the world began. 
That slew so many monsters as did he; 
Throughout the wide world his name ran. 
What for his strength, and for his high bounte; 
And every realme went he for to see; 
He was so strong that no man might him let;* 
At both the worlde's ends, as saithTrophee, <10> 
Instead of boundes he a pillar set. 

A leman had this noble champion. 
That highte Dejanira, fresh as May; 
And, as these clerkes make mention. 
She hath him sent a shirte fresh and gay; 
Alas! this shirt, alas and well- away! 



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Envenomed was sub tilly withal. 

That ere that he had worn it half a day. 

It made his flesh all from his bones fall. 

But natheless some clerkes her excuse 

By one, that highte Nessus, that it maked; 

Be as he may, I will not her accuse; 

But on his back this shirt he wore all naked. 

Till that his flesh was for the venom blaked.' 

And when he saw none other remedy. 

In bote coals he hath himselfe raked, 

For with no venom deigned he to die. 


Thus sterP this worthy mighty Hercules. 
Lo, who may trust on Fortune *any throw?* 
For him that followeth all this world of pres,* 
Ere he be ware, is often laid full low; 
Full wise is he that can himselfe know. 
Beware, for when that Fortune list to glose 
Then waiteth she her man to overthrow. 
By such a way as he would least suppose. 

The mighty throne, the precious treasor. 
The glorious sceptre, and royal majesty. 
That had the king NABUCHODONOSOR 
With tongue unnethes* may described be. 
He twice won Jerusalem the city. 
The vessels of the temple he with him lad;* 
At Babylone was his sov'reign see,* 
In which his glory and delight he had. 

The fairest children of the blood royal 
Of Israel he *did do geld* anon. 


*for a moment* 
*near < 1 1 > 


*took away 

*caused to be castrated* 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And maked each of them to be his thrall.* 
Amonges others Daniel was one, 
That was the wisest child of every one; 
For he the dreames of the king expounded, 
Where in Chaldaea clerkes was there none 
That wiste to what fine* his dreames sounded. 



This proude king let make a statue of gold 
Sixty cubites long, and seven in bread'. 
To which image hathe young and old 
Commanded he to lout,* and have in dread. 
Or in a furnace, full of flames red. 
He should be burnt that woulde not obey: 
But never would assente to that deed 
Daniel, nor his younge fellows tway. 

*bow down to 

This king of kinges proud was and elate;* 
He ween'd* that God, that sits in majesty, 
Mighte him not bereave of his estate; 
But suddenly he lost his dignity. 
And like a beast he seemed for to be. 
And ate hay as an ox, and lay thereout 
In rain, with wilde beastes walked he. 
Till certain time was y-come about. 


And like an eagle s feathers wax'd his hairs. 

His nailes like a birde's clawes were. 

Till God released him at certain years. 

And gave him wit; and then with many a tear 

He thanked God, and ever his life in fear 

Was he to do amiss, or more trespace: 

And till that time he laid was on his bier. 

He knew that God was full of might and grace. 

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His sone, which that highte BALTHAS AR, 

That *held the regne* after his father's day, *possessed the kingdom* 

He by his father coulde not beware. 

For proud he was of heart and of array; 

And eke an idolaster was he aye. 

His high estate assured* him in pride; *confirmed 

But Fortune cast him down, and there he lay. 

And suddenly his regne gan divide. 

A feast he made unto his lordes all 
Upon a time, and made them blithe be. 
And then his officeres gan he call; 
"Go, bringe forth the vessels," saide he, 
"Which that my father in his prosperity 
Out of the temple of Jerusalem reft. 
And to our highe goddes thanks we 
Of honour, that our elders* with us left." 


His wife, his lordes, and his concubines 
Aye dranke, while their appetites did last. 
Out of these noble vessels sundry wines. 
And on a wall this king his eyen cast. 
And saw an hand, armless, that wrote full fast; 
For fear of which he quaked, and sighed sore. 
This hand, that Balthasar so sore aghast,* 
Wrote Mane, tekel, phares, and no more. 


In all that land magician was there none 
That could expounde what this letter meant. 
But Daniel expounded it anon. 
And said, "O King, God to thy father lent 
Glory and honour, regne, treasure, rent;* 
And he was proud, and nothing God he drad;* 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And therefore God great wreche* upon him sent, Vengeance 

And him bereft the regne that he had. 

"He was cast out of manne's company; 
With asses was his habitation 
And ate hay, as a beast, in wet and dry. 
Till that he knew by grace and by reason 
That God of heaven hath domination 
O'er every regne, and every creature; 
And then had God of him compassion. 
And him restor'd his regne and his figure. 

"Eke thou, that art his son, art proud also. 

And knowest all these thinges verily; 

And art rebel to God, and art his foe. 

Thou drankest of his vessels boldely; 

Thy wife eke, and thy wenches, sinfully 

Drank of the same vessels sundry wines. 

And heried* false goddes cursedly; *praised 

Therefore *to thee y-shapen full great pine is.* *great punishment is 

prepared for thee* 
"This hand was sent from God, that on the wall 
Wrote Mane, tekel, phares, truste me; 
Thy reign is done; thou weighest naught at all; 
Divided is thy regne, and it shall be 
To Medes and to Persians giv'n," quoth he. 
And thilke same night this king was slaw* *slain 

And Darius occupied his degree. 
Though he thereto had neither right nor law. 

Lordings, example hereby may ye take. 
How that in lordship is no sickerness;* 
For when that Fortune will a man forsake. 
She bears away his regne and his ri chess. 


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And eke his friendes bothe more and less. 
For what man that hath friendes through fortune. 
Mishap will make them enemies, I guess; 
This proverb is full sooth, and full commune. 


ZENOBIA, of Palmyrie the queen, <12> 

As write Persians of her nobless. 

So worthy was in armes, and so keen. 

That no wight passed her in hardiness. 

Nor in lineage, nor other gentleness.* *noble qualities 

Of the king's blood of Perse* is she descended; *Persia 

I say not that she hadde most fairness. 

But of her shape she might not he amended. 

From her childhood I finde that she fled 
Office of woman, and to woods she went. 
And many a wilde harte's blood she shed 
With arrows broad that she against them sent; 
She was so swift, that she anon them hent.* 
And when that she was older, she would kill 
Lions, leopards, and beares all to-rent,* 
And in her armes wield them at her will. 


torn to pieces 

She durst the wilde beastes' dennes seek. 
And runnen in the mountains all the night. 
And sleep under a bush; and she could eke 
Wrestle by very force and very might 
With any young man, were he ne'er so wight;* 
There mighte nothing in her armes stond. 
She kept her maidenhood from every wight. 
To no man deigned she for to be bond. 

*active, nimble 

But at the last her friendes have her married 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

To Odenate, <13> a prince of that country; 

All were it so, that she them longe tarried. 

And ye shall understande how that he 

Hadde such fantasies as hadde she; 

But natheless, when they were knit in fere,* 

They liv'd in joy, and in felicity. 

For each of them had other lefe* and dear. 


Save one thing, that she never would assent. 
By no way, that he shoulde by her lie 
But ones, for it was her plain intent 
To have a child, the world to multiply; 
And all so soon as that she might espy 
That she was not with childe by that deed. 
Then would she suffer him do his fantasy 
Eftsoon,* and not but ones, *out of dread.* 

And if she were with child at thilke* cast. 

No more should he playe thilke game 

Till fully forty dayes were past; 

Then would she once suffer him do the same. 

All* were this Odenatus wild or tame. 

He got no more of her; for thus she said. 

It was to wives lechery and shame 

In other case* if that men with them play'd. 

*again *without doubt* 



on other terms 

Two sones, by this Odenate had she. 

The which she kept in virtue and lettrure.* 

But now unto our tale turne we; 

I say, so worshipful a creature. 

And wise therewith, and large* with measure,^ 

So penible* in the war, and courteous eke. 

Nor more labour might in war endure. 

Was none, though all this worlde men should seek. 


hountiful **moderation 

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Her rich array it mighte not be told. 

As well in vessel as in her clothing: 

She was all clad in pierrie* and in gold, *jewellery 

And eke she *lefte not,* for no hunting, *did not neglect* 

To have of sundry tongues full knowing. 

When that she leisure had, and for t'intend* *^Ppty 

To learne bookes was all her liking. 

How she in virtue might her life dispend. 

And, shortly of this story for to treat. 
So doughty was her husband and eke she. 
That they conquered many regnes great 
In th'Orient, with many a fair city 
Appertinent unto the majesty 
Of Rome, and with strong hande held them fast. 
Nor ever might their foemen do* them flee. 
Aye while that Odenatus' dayes last'. 


Her battles, whoso list them for to read. 
Against Sapor the king, <14> and other mo'. 
And how that all this process fell in deed. 
Why she conquer'd, and what title thereto. 
And after of her mischief and her woe. 
How that she was besieged and y-take. 
Let him unto my master Petrarch go. 
That writes enough of this, I undertake. 


When Odenate was dead, she mightily 

The regne held, and with her proper hand 

Against her foes she fought so cruelly. 

That there n'as* king nor prince in all that land. 

That was not glad, if be that grace fand 

That she would not upon his land warray;* 

was not 

*make war 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

With her they maden alliance by bond, 
To be in peace, and let her ride and play 

The emperor of Rome, Claudius, 

Nor, him before, the Roman Gallien, 

Durste never be so courageous. 

Nor no Armenian, nor Egyptien, 

Nor Syrian, nor no Arabien, 

Within the fielde durste with her fight. 

Lest that she would them with her handes slen,* *slay 

Or with her meinie* putte them to flight. *troops 

In kinges' habit went her sones two. 
As heires of their father's regnes all; 
And Heremanno andTimolao 
Their names were, as Persians them call 
But aye Fortune hath in her honey gall; 
This mighty queene may no while endure; 
Fortune out of her regne made her fall 
To wretchedness and to misadventure. 

Aurelian, when that the governance 

Of Rome came into his handes tway, <15> 

He shope* upon this queen to do vengeance; *prepared 

And with his legions he took his way 

Toward Zenobie, and, shortly for to say. 

He made her flee, and at the last her hent,* *took 

And fetter'd her, and eke her children tway. 

And won the land, and home to Rome he went. 

Amonges other thinges that he wan. 

Her car, that was with gold wrought and pierrie,* *jewels 

This greate Roman, this Aurelian 

Hath with him led, for that men should it see. 

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Before in his triumphe walked she 

With gilte chains upon her neck hanging; 

Crowned she was, as after* her degree, *according to 

And full of pierrie her clothing. 


Alas, Fortune! she that whilom was 
Dreadful to kinges and to emperours. 
Now galeth* all the people on her, alas! 
And she that *helmed was in starke stowres,* 
And won by force townes strong and tow'rs. 
Shall on her head now wear a vitremite; <16> 
And she that bare the sceptre full of flow'rs 
Shall bear a distaff, *her cost for to quite.* 

*wore a helmet in 
obstinate battles* 

to make her living* 

Although that NERO were so vicious 

As any fiend that lies full low adown. 

Yet he, as telleth us Suetonius,<17> 

This wide world had in subjectioun. 

Both East and West, South and Septentrioun. 

Of rubies, sapphires, and of pearles white 

Were all his clothes embroider'd up and down. 

For he in gemmes greatly gan delight. 

More delicate, more pompous of array. 

More proud, was never emperor than he; 

That *ilke cloth* that he had worn one day, *same robe* 

After that time he would it never see; 

Nettes of gold thread had he great plenty. 

To fish in Tiber, when him list to play; 

His lustes* were as law, in his degree, *pleasures 

For Fortune as his friend would him obey. 

He Rome burnt for his delicacy;* *pleasure 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

The senators he slew upon a day, 

To heare how that men would weep and cry; 

And slew his brother, and by his sister lay 

His mother made he in piteous array; 

For he her wombe slitte, to behold 

Where he conceived was; so well-away! 

That he so little of his mother told.* Valued 

No tear out of his eyen for that sight 

Came; but he said, a fair woman was she. 

Great wonder is, how that he could or might 

Be doomesman* of her deade beauty: *judge 

The wine to bringe him commanded he. 

And drank anon; none other woe he made. 

When might is joined unto cruelty, 

Alas! too deepe will the venom wade. 

*literature, learning 


In youth a master had this emperour. 

To teache him lettrure* and courtesy; 

For of morality he was the flow'r. 

As in his time, *but iP bookes lie. *unless 

And while this master had of him mast'ry. 

He made him so conning and so souple,* 

That longe time it was ere tyranny. 

Or any vice, durst in him uncouple.* *be let loose 

This Seneca, of which that I devise,* *tell 

Because Nero had of him suche dread. 

For he from vices would him aye chastise 

Discreetly, as by word, and not by deed; 

"Sir," he would say, "an emperor must need 

Be virtuous, and hate tyranny." 

For which he made him in a bath to bleed 

On both his armes, till he muste die. 

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This Nero had eke of a custumance* *habit 

In youth against his master for to rise;* *stand in his presence 

Which afterward he thought a great grievance; 

Therefore he made him dien in this wise. 

But natheless this Seneca the wise 

Chose in a bath to die in this mannere. 

Rather than have another tormentise;* *torture 

And thus hath Nero slain his master dear. 

Now fell it so, that Fortune list no longer 

The highe pride of Nero to cherice;* *cherish 

For though he were strong, yet was she stronger. 

She thoughte thus; "By God, I am too nice* *foolish 

To set a man, that is full fdl'd of vice. 

In high degree, and emperor him call! 

By God, out of his seat I will him trice!* *thrust <18> 

When he least weeneth,* soonest shall he fall." *expecteth 

The people rose upon him on a night. 

For his default; and when he it espied. 

Out of his doors anon he hath him dight* *betaken himself 

Alone, and where he ween'd t'have been allied,* *regarded with 

He knocked fast, and aye the more he cried friendship 

The faster shutte they their doores all; 

Then wist he well he had himself misgied,* *misled 

And went his way, no longer durst he call. 

The people cried and rumbled up and down. 

That with his eares heard he how they said; 

"Where is this false tyrant, this Neroun?" 

For fear almost out of his wit he braid,* *went 

And to his goddes piteously he pray'd 

For succour, but it mighte not betide 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

For dread of this he thoughte that died, 
And ran into a garden him to hide. 

And in this garden found he churles tway, 
That satte by a fire great and red; 
And to these churles two he gan to pray 
To slay him, and to girdon* off his head. 
That to his body, when that he were dead. 
Were no despite done for his defame.* 
Himself he slew, *he coud no better rede;* 
Of which Fortune laugh'd and hadde game. 


*he knew no better 

Was never capitain under a king. 

That regnes more put in subjectioun. 

Nor stronger was in field of alle thing 

As in his time, nor greater of renown. 

Nor more pompous in high presumptioun. 

Than HOLOFERNES, whom Fortune aye kiss'd 

So lik'rously, and led him up and down. 

Till that his head was off *ere that he wist.* *before he knew it* 

Not only that this world had of him awe. 

For losing of richess and liberty; 

But he made every man *reny his law* 

Nabuchodonosor was God, said he; 

None other Godde should honoured be. 

Against his best* there dare no wight trespace. 

Save in Bethulia, a strong city. 

Where Eliachim priest was of that place. 

But take keep* of the death of Holofern; 
Amid his host he drunken lay at night 
Within his tente, large as is a bern;* 

renounce his religion <19> 




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And yet, for all his pomp and all his might, 
Judith, a woman, as he lay upright 
Sleeping, his head off smote, and from his tent 
Full privily she stole from every wight. 
And with his head unto her town she went. 


What needeth it of king ANTIOCHUS <20> 
To tell his high and royal majesty. 
His great pride, and his workes venomous? 
For such another was there none as he; 
Reade what that he was in Maccabee. 
And read the proude wordes that he said. 
And why he fell from his prosperity. 
And in an hill how wretchedly he died. 

Fortune him had enhanced so in pride. 
That verily he ween'd he might attain 
Unto the starres upon every side. 
And in a balance weighen each mountain. 
And all the floodes of the sea restrain. 
And Godde's people had he most in hate 
Them would he slay in torment and in pain. 
Weening that God might not his pride abate. 

And for that Nicanor andTimothee 
With Jewes were vanquish'd mightily, <21 > 
Unto the Jewes such an hate had he. 
That he bade *graith his car* full hastily. 
And swore and saide full dispiteously. 
Unto Jerusalem he would eftsoon,* 
To wreak his ire on it full cruelly 
But of his purpose was he let* full soon. 

*prepare his chariot* 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

God for his menace him so sore smote, 

With invisible wound incurable, 

That in his guttes carP it so and bote,** *cut **gnawed 

Till that his paines were importable;* *unendurable 

And certainly the wreche* was reasonable, *vengeance 

For many a manne's guttes did he pain; 

But from his purpose, curs'd* and damnable, *impious 

For all his smart he would him not restrain; 

But bade anon apparaile* his host. *prepare 

And suddenly, ere he was of it ware, 

God daunted all his pride, and all his boast 

For he so sore fell out of his chare,* *chariot 

That it his limbes and his skin to-tare. 

So that he neither mighte go nor ride 

But in a chaire men about him bare, 

Alle forbruised bothe back and side. 

The wreche* of God him smote so cruelly, *vengeance 

That through his body wicked wormes crept. 

And therewithal he stank so horribly 

That none of all his meinie* that him kept, *servants 

Whether so that he woke or elles slept, 

Ne mighte not of him the stink endure. 

In this mischief he wailed and eke wept. 

And knew God Lord of every creature. 

To all his host, and to himself also. 

Full wlatsem* was the stink of his carrain;** *loathsome **body 

No manne might him beare to and fro. 

And in this stink, and this horrible pain. 

He starP full wretchedly in a mountain. *dies 

Thus hath this robber, and this homicide. 

That many a manne made to weep and plain. 

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Such guerdon* as belongeth unto pride. *reward 

The story of ALEXANDER is so commune. 
That ev'ry wight that hath discretion 
Hath heard somewhat or all of his fortune. 
This wide world, as in conclusion. 
He won by strength; or, for his high renown. 
They were glad for peace to him to send. 
The pride and boast of man he laid adown, 
Whereso he came, unto the worlde's end. 

Comparison yet never might be maked 
Between him and another conqueror; 
For all this world for dread of him had quaked 
He was of knighthood and of freedom flow'r: 
Fortune him made the heir of her honour. 
Save wine and women, nothing might assuage 
His high intent in arms and labour. 
So was he full of leonine courage. 

What praise were it to him, though I you told 

Of Darius, and a hundred thousand mo'. 

Of kinges, princes, dukes, and earles bold. 

Which he conquer'd, and brought them into woe? 

I say, as far as man may ride or go. 

The world was his, why should I more devise?* *tell 

For, though I wrote or told you evermo'. 

Of his knighthood it mighte not suffice. 

Twelve years he reigned, as saith Maccabee 

Philippe's son of Macedon he was. 

That first was king in Greece the country. 

O worthy gentle* Alexander, alas *noble 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

That ever should thee falle such a case! 
Empoison'd of thine owen folk thou were; 
Thy six <22> fortune hath turn'd into an ace, 
And yet for thee she wepte never a tear. 

Who shall me give teares to complain 

The death of gentiless, and of franchise,* *generosity 

That all this worlde had in his demaine,* *dominion 

And yet he thought it mighte not suffice. 

So full was his corage* of high emprise? *spirit 

Alas! who shall me helpe to indite 

False Fortune, and poison to despise? 

The whiche two of all this woe I wite.* *blame 

By wisdom, manhood, and by great labour. 

From humbleness to royal majesty 

Up rose he, JULIUS the Conquerour, 

That won all th' Occident,* by land and sea, *West 

By strength of hand or elles by treaty. 

And unto Rome made them tributary; 

And since* of Rome the emperor was he, *afterwards 

Till that Fortune wax'd his adversary. 

O mighty Caesar, that in Thessaly 

Against POMPEIUS, father thine in law, <23> 

That of th' Orient had all the chivalry. 

As far as that the day begins to daw. 

That through thy knighthood hast them take and slaw,* slain 

Save fewe folk that with Pompeius fled; 

Through which thou put all th' Orient in awe; <24> 

Thanke Fortune that so well thee sped. 

But now a little while I will bewail 

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This Pompeius, this noble governor 

Of Rome, which that fled at this battaile 

I say, one of his men, a false traitor. 

His head off smote, to winne him favor 

Of Julius, and him the head he brought; 

Alas! Pompey, of th' Orient conqueror. 

That Fortune unto such a fme* thee brought! *end 

To Rome again repaired Julius, 

With his triumphe laureate full high; 

But on a time Brutus and Cassius, 

That ever had of his estate envy. 

Full privily have made conspiracy 

Against this Julius in subtle wise 

And cast* the place in which he shoulde die. 

With bodekins,* as I shall you devise.** 


This Julius to the Capitole went 
Upon a day, as he was wont to gon; 
And in the Capitol anon him hent* 
This false Brutus, and his other fone,* 
And sticked him with bodekins anon 
With many a wound, and thus they let him lie. 
But never groan'd he at no stroke but one. 
Or else at two, *but iP the story lie. 

*daggers **tell 



So manly was this Julius of heart. 

And so well loved *estately honesty *dignified propriety* 

That, though his deadly woundes sore smart,* *pained him 

His mantle o'er his hippes caste he. 

That ne man shoulde see his privity 

And as he lay a-dying in a trance. 

And wiste verily that dead was he. 

Of honesty yet had he remembrance. 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Lucan, to thee this story I recommend, 

And to Sueton, and Valerie also, 

That of this story write *word and end* 

How that to these great conquerores two 

Fortune was first a friend, and since* a foe. 

No manne trust upon her favour long. 

But *have her in await for evermo';* *ever be watchful against her* 

Witness on all these conquerores strong. 

*the whole* <25> 


The riche CROESUS, <26> whilom king of Lyde, — 

Of which Croesus Cyrus him sore drad,* — 

Yet was he caught amiddes all his pride. 

And to be burnt men to the fire him lad; 

But such a rain down *from the welkin shad,* 

That slew the fire, and made him to escape: 

But to beware no grace yet he had. 

Till fortune on the gallows made him gape. 


poured from the sky* 

When he escaped was, he could not stint* 
For to begin a newe war again; 
He weened well, for that Fortune him sent 
Such hap, that he escaped through the rain. 
That of his foes he mighte not be slain. 
And eke a sweven* on a night he mette,** 
Of which he was so proud, and eke so fain,* 
That he in vengeance all his hearte set. 


*dream **dreamed 

Upon a tree he was set, as he thought. 
Where Jupiter him wash'd, both back and side. 
And Phoebus eke a fair towel him brought 
To dry him with; and therefore wax'd his pride. 
And to his daughter that stood him beside. 

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Which he knew in high science to abound. 

He bade her tell him what it signified; 

And she his dream began right thus expound. 


"The tree," quoth she, "the gallows is to mean. 
And Jupiter betokens snow and rain. 
And Phoebus, with his towel clear and clean. 
These be the sunne's streames* sooth to sayn; 
Thou shalt y-hangeth be, father, certain; 
Rain shall thee wash, and sunne shall thee dry." 
Thus warned him full plat and eke full plain 
His daughter, which that called was Phanie. 


And hanged was Croesus the proude king; 

His royal throne might him not avail. 

Tragedy is none other manner thing. 

Nor can in singing crien nor bewail. 

But for that Fortune all day will assail 

With unware stroke the regnes* that be proud: < 27 > 

For when men truste her, then will she fail. 

And cover her bright face with a cloud. 


O noble, O worthy PEDRO, <28> glory OF SPAIN, 

Whem Fortune held so high in majesty. 

Well oughte men thy piteous death complain. 

Out of thy land thy brother made thee flee. 

And after, at a siege, by subtlety. 

Thou wert betray 'd, and led unto his tent. 

Where as he with his owen hand slew thee. 

Succeeding in thy regne* and in thy rent.** 

^kingdom *revenues 

The field of snow, with th' eagle of black therein. 

Caught with the lion, red-colour 'd as the glede,* *burning coal 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

He brew'd this cursedness,* and all this sin; Vickedness, villainy 

The wicked nest was worker of this deed; 

Not Charles' Oliver, <29> that took aye heed 

Of truth and honour, but of Armorike 

Ganilien Oliver, corrupt for meed,* *reward, bribe 

Broughte this worthy king in such a brike.* *breach, ruin 

O worthy PETRO, King of CYPRE <30> also. 

That Alexandre won by high mast'ry. 

Full many a heathnen wroughtest thou full woe. 

Of which thine owen lieges had envy; 

And, for no thing but for thy chivalry. 

They in thy bed have slain thee by the morrow; 

Thus can Fortune her wheel govern and gie,* 

And out of joy bringe men into sorrow. 


Of Milan greate BARNABO VISCOUNT,<30> 

God of delight, and scourge of Lombardy, 

Why should I not thine clomben* wert so high? *climbed 

Thy brother's son, that was thy double ally. 

For he thy nephew was and son-in-law. 

Within his prison made thee to die. 

But why, nor how, Vot I* that thou were slaw* *I know not* *slain* 

Of th' Earl HUGOLIN OF PISE the languour* 
There may no tongue telle for pity 
But little out of Pisa stands a tow'r. 
In whiche tow'r in prison put was he, 
Aud with him be his little children three; 
The eldest scarcely five years was of age; 
Alas! Fortune, it was great cruelty 


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Such birdes for to put in such a cage. 


Damned was he to die in that prison; 
For Roger, which that bishop was of Pise, 
Had on him made a false suggestion. 
Through which the people gan upon him rise. 
And put him in prison, in such a wise 
As ye have heard; and meat and drink he had 
So small, that well unneth* it might suffice. 
And therewithal it was full poor and bad. 


And on a day befell, that in that hour 
When that his meate wont was to be brought. 
The jailor shut the doores of the tow'r; 
He heard it right well, but he spake nought. 
And in his heart anon there fell a thought. 
That they for hunger woulde *do him dien;* 
"Alas!" quoth he, "alas that I was wrought!"* 
Therewith the teares fell from his eyen. 

*cause him to die* 
*made, born 

His youngest son, that three years was of age. 
Unto him said, "Father, why do ye weep? 
When will the jailor bringen our pottage? 
Is there no morsel bread that ye do keep? 
I am so hungry, that I may not sleep. 
Now woulde God that I might sleepen ever! 
Then should not hunger in my wombe* creep; 
There is no thing, save bread, that one were lever.' 


Thus day by day this child begun to cry. 
Till in his father's barme* adown he lay. 
And saide, "Farewell, father, I must die;" 
And kiss'd his father, and died the same day. 
And when the woeful father did it sey* 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

For woe his armes two he gan to bite, 
And said, "Alas! Fortune, and well-away! 
To thy false wheel my woe all may I wite.' 


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His children ween'd that it for hunger was 
That he his armes gnaw'd, and not for woe. 
And saide, "Father, do not so, alas! 
But rather eat the flesh upon us two. 
Our flesh thou gave us, our flesh take us fro', 
And eat enough;" right thus they to him said. 
And after that, within a day or two. 
They laid them in his lap adown, and died. 

Himself, despaired, eke for hunger starf * 

Thus ended is this Earl of Pise; 

From high estate Fortune away him car£* 

Of this tragedy it ought enough suffice 

Whoso will hear it *in a longer wise,* 

Reade the greate poet of Itale, 

That Dante hight, for he can it devise <32> 

From point to point, not one word will he fail. 


*cut off 

at greater length* 


The Prologue. 

"Ho!" quoth the Knight, "good sir, no more of this; 

That ye have said is right enough, y-wis,* *of a surety 

And muche more; for little heaviness 

Is right enough to muche folk, I guess. 

I say for me, it is a great disease,* *source of distress, annoyance 

Where as men have been in great wealth and ease. 

To hearen of their sudden fall, alas! 

And the contrary is joy and great solas,* *delight, comfort 

As when a man hath been in poor estate. 

And climbeth up, and waxeth fortunate. 

And there abideth in prosperity; 

Such thing is gladsome, as it thinketh me. 

And of such thing were goodly for to tell." 

"Yea," quoth our Hoste, "by Saint Paule's bell. 

Ye say right sooth; this monk hath clapped* loud; 

He spake how Fortune cover 'd with a cloud 

I wot not what, and als' of a tragedy 

Right now ye heard: and pardie no remedy 

It is for to bewaile, nor complain 

That that is done, and also it is pain. 

As ye have said, to hear of heaviness. 

Sir Monk, no more of this, so God you bless; 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Your tale annoyeth all this company; 

Such talking is not worth a butterfly, 

For therein is there no sport nor game; 

Therefore, Sir Monke, Dan Piers by your name, 

I pray you heart'ly, tell us somewhat else. 

For sickerly, n'ere* clinking of your bells, *were it not for the 

That on your bridle hang on every side. 

By heaven's king, that for us alle died, 

I should ere this have fallen down for sleep. 

Although the slough had been never so deep; 

Then had your tale been all told in vain. 

For certainly, as these clerkes sayn. 

Where as a man may have no audience. 

Nought helpeth it to telle his sentence. 

And well I wot the substance is in me. 

If anything shall well reported be. 

Sir, say somewhat of hunting, < 1 > I you pray." 

"Nay," quoth the Monk, "I have *no lust to play;* *no fondness for 

Now let another tell, as I have told." jesting* 

Then spake our Host with rude speech and bold. 

And said unto the Nunne's Priest anon, 

"Come near, thou Priest, come hither, thou Sir John, <2> 

Tell us such thing as may our heartes glade.* *gladden 

Be blithe, although thou ride upon a jade. 

What though thine horse be bothe foul and lean? 

If he will serve thee, reck thou not a bean; 

Look that thine heart be merry evermo'." 

"Yes, Host," quoth he, "so may I ride or go. 
But* I be merry, y-wis I will be blamed." 
And right anon his tale he hath attamed* 
And thus he said unto us every one. 
This sweete priest, this goodly man. Sir John. 

*commenced <3> 

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The Tale. 

her goods and her income* 
*thrifty management 


A poor widow, *somedeal y-stept* in age, *somewhat advanced* 

Was whilom dwelling in a poor cottage. 

Beside a grove, standing in a dale. 

This widow, of which I telle you my tale. 

Since thilke day that she was last a wife. 

In patience led a full simple life. 

For little was *her chattel and her rent.* 

By husbandry* of such as God her sent. 

She found* herself, and eke her daughters two. 

Three large sowes had she, and no mo'; 

Three kine, and eke a sheep that highte Mall. 

Full sooty was her bow'r,* and eke her hall. 

In which she ate full many a slender meal. 

Of poignant sauce knew she never a deal.* 

No dainty morsel passed through her throat; 

Her diet was *accordant to her cote.* *in keeping with her cottage^ 

Repletion her made never sick; 

Attemper* diet was all her physic. 

And exercise, and *hearte's suffisance.* 

The goute *let her nothing for to dance,' 

Nor apoplexy shente* not her head. 

No wine drank she, neither white nor red: 

Her board was served most with white and black. 

Milk and brown bread, in which she found no lack, 

Seind* bacon, and sometimes an egg or tway; *singed 

For she was as it were *a manner dey* *kind of day labourer* <2 

A yard she had, enclosed all about 

With stickes, and a drye ditch without. 

In which she had a cock, hight Chanticleer; 

In all the land of crowing *n'as his peer.* *was not his equal* 

His voice was merrier than the merry orgon,* *organ <3 > 

On masse days that in the churches gon. 


*contentment of heart* 
*did not prevent her 
from dancing* *hurt 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

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Well sickerer* was his crowing in his lodge, *more punctual* 

Than is a clock, or an abbay horloge.* *clock <4> 

By nature he knew each ascension 

Of th' equinoctial in thilke town; 

For when degrees fiftene were ascended. 

Then crew he, that it might not be amended. 

His comb was redder than the fme coral, 

Embattell'd <5> as it were a castle wall. 

His bill was black, and as the jet it shone; 

Like azure were his legges and his tone;* *toes 

His nailes whiter than the lily flow'r. 

And like the burnish'd gold was his colour. 

This gentle cock had in his governance 

Sev'n hennes, for to do all his pleasance. 

Which were his sisters and his paramours. 

And wondrous like to him as of colours. 

Of which the fairest-hued in the throat 

Was called Damoselle Partelote, 

Courteous she was, discreet, and debonair. 

And companiable,* and bare herself so fair, *sociable 

Since the day that she sev'n night was old. 

That truely she had the heart in hold 

Of Chanticleer, locked in every lith;* *limb 

He lov'd her so, that well was him therewith. 

But such a joy it was to hear them sing. 

When that the brighte sunne gan to spring. 

In sweet accord, *"My lefe is fare in land."* <6> *my love is 

For, at that time, as I have understand, gone abroad* 

Beastes and birdes coulde speak and sing. 

And so befell, that in a dawening. 
As Chanticleer among his wives all 
Sat on his perche, that was in the hall. 
And next him sat this faire Partelote, 

This Chanticleer gan groanen in his throat. 

As man that in his dream is dretched* sore, *oppressed 

And when that Partelote thus heard him roar. 

She was aghast,* and saide, "Hearte dear, *afraid 

What aileth you to groan in this mannere? 

Ye be a very sleeper, fy for shame!" 

And he answer 'd and saide thus; "Madame, 

I pray you that ye take it not agrief;* *amiss, in umbrage 

By God, *me mette* I was in such mischief,** *I dreamed* **trouble 

Right now, that yet mine heart is sore affright'. 

Now God," quoth he, "my sweven* read aright *dream, vision. 

And keep my body out of foul prisoun. 

*Me mette,* how that I roamed up and down *I dreamed* 

Within our yard, where as I saw a beast 

Was like an hound, and would have *made arrest* *siezed* 

Upon my body, and would have had me dead. 

His colour was betwixt yellow and red; 

And tipped was his tail, and both his ears. 

With black, unlike the remnant of his hairs. 

His snout was small, with glowing eyen tway; 

Yet of his look almost for fear I dey;* *died 

This caused me my groaning, doubteless." 

"Away," <7> quoth she, "fy on you, hearteless!* 
Alas!" quoth she, "for, by that God above! 
Now have ye lost my heart and all my love; 
I cannot love a coward, by my faith. 
For certes, what so any woman saith. 
We all desiren, if it mighte be. 
To have husbandes hardy, wise, and free. 
And secret,* and no niggard nor no fool. 
Nor him that is aghast* of every tool,** 
Nor no avantour,* by that God above! 
How durste ye for shame say to your love 


*afraid **rag, trifle 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

That anything might make you afear'd? 

Have ye no manne's heart, and have a beard? 

Alas! and can ye be aghast of swevenes?* *dreams 

Nothing but vanity, God wot, in sweven is, 

Swevens *engender of repletions,* *are caused by over-eating* 

And oft of fume,* and of complexions, *drunkenness 

When humours be too abundant in a wight. 

Certes this dream, which ye have mette tonight, 

Cometh of the great supefluity 

Of youre rede cholera,* pardie, *bile 

Which causeth folk to dreaden in their dreams 

Of arrows, and of fire with redde beams. 

Of redde beastes, that they will them bite. 

Of conteke,* and of whelpes great and lite;** *contention **little 

Right as the humour of melancholy 

Causeth full many a man in sleep to cry. 

For fear of bulles, or of beares blake. 

Or elles that black devils will them take. 

Of other humours could I tell also. 

That worke many a man in sleep much woe; 

That I will pass as lightly as I can. 

Lo, Cato, which that was so wise a man, 

Saidhe not thus, *'Ne do no force oP dreams,'<8> *attach no 

weight to* 

Now, Sir," quoth she, "when we fly from these beams. 

For Godde's love, as take some laxatife; 

On peril of my soul, and of my life, 

I counsel you the best, I will not lie. 

That both of choler, and melancholy. 

Ye purge you; and, for ye shall not tarry. 

Though in this town is no apothecary, 

I shall myself two herbes teache you. 

That shall be for your health, and for your prow;* *profit 

And in our yard the herbes shall I fmd. 

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The which have of their property by kind* 

To purge you beneath, and eke above. 

Sire, forget not this for Godde's love; 

Ye be full choleric of complexion; 

Ware that the sun, in his ascension. 

You fmde not replete of humours hot; 

And if it do, I dare well lay a groat. 

That ye shall have a fever tertiane. 

Or else an ague, that may be your bane, 

A day or two ye shall have digestives 

Of wormes, ere ye take your laxatives. 

Of laurel, centaury, <9> and fumeterere, <10> 

Or else of elder-berry, that groweth there. 

Of catapuce, <11> or of the gaitre-berries, <12> 

Or herb ivy growing in our yard, that merry is: 

Pick them right as they grow, and eat them in. 

Be merry, husband, for your father's kin; 

Dreade no dream; I can say you no more." 



"Madame," quoth he, "grand mercy of your lore. 

But natheless, as touching *Dan Catoun,* *Cato 

That hath of wisdom such a great renown. 

Though that he bade no dreames for to dread. 

By God, men may in olde bookes read 

Of many a man more of authority 

Than ever Cato was, so may I the,* *thrive 

That all the reverse say of his sentence,* *opinion 

And have well founden by experience 

That dreames be significations 

As well of joy, as tribulations 

That folk enduren in this life present. 

There needeth make of this no argument; 

The very preve* sheweth it indeed. *trial, experience 

One of the greatest authors that men read <13> 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Saith thus, that whilom two fellowes went 

On pilgrimage in a full good intent; 

And happen'd so, they came into a town 

Where there was such a congregatioun 

Of people, and eke so *strait of herbergage,'^ 

That they found not as much as one cottage 

In which they bothe might y-lodged be: 

Wherefore they musten of necessity. 

As for that night, departe company; 

And each of them went to his hostelry,* 

And took his lodging as it woulde fall. 

The one of them was lodged in a stall. 

Far in a yard, with oxen of the plough; 

That other man was lodged well enow. 

As was his aventure, or his fortune. 

That us governeth all, as in commune. 

And so befell, that, long ere it were day. 

This man mette* in his bed, there: as he lay. 

How that his fellow gan upon him call. 

And said, Alas! for in an ox's stall 

This night shall I be murder 'd, where I lie 

Now help me, deare brother, or I die; 

In alle haste come to me,' he said. 

This man out of his sleep for fear abraid;* 

But when that he was wak'd out of his sleep. 

He turned him, and *took of this no keep;* 

He thought his dream was but a vanity. 

Thus twies* in his sleeping dreamed he. 

And at the thirde time yet his fellaw again 

Came, as he thought, and said, 'I am now slaw;' 

Behold my bloody woundes, deep and wide. 

Arise up early, in the morning, tide. 

And at the west gate of the town,' quoth he, 

A carte full of dung there shalt: thou see. 

*without lodging* 



paid this no attention* 



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In which my body is hid privily. 

Do thilke cart arroste* boldely. 

My gold caused my murder, sooth to sayn.' 

And told him every point how he was slain. 

With a full piteous face, and pale of hue. 



"And, truste well, his dream he found full true; 
For on the morrow, as soon as it was day. 
To his fellowes inn he took his way; 
And when that he came to this ox's stall. 
After his fellow he began to call. 
The hostelere answered him anon. 
And saide, 'Sir, your fellow is y-gone. 
As soon as day he went out of the town.' 
This man gan fallen in suspicioun, 
Rememb'ring on his dreames that he mette,* 
And forth he went, no longer would he let,* 
Unto the west gate of the town, and fand* 
A dung cart, as it went for to dung land. 
That was arrayed in the same wise 
As ye have heard the deade man devise;* 
And with an hardy heart he gan to cry, 
'Vengeance and justice of this felony: 
My fellow murder'd in this same night 
And in this cart he lies, gaping upright. 
I cry out on the ministers,' quoth he. 
'That shoulde keep and rule this city; 
Harow! alas! here lies my fellow slain.' 
What should I more unto this tale sayn? 
The people out start, and cast the cart to ground 
And in the middle of the dung they found 
The deade man, that murder'd was all new. 
O blissful God! that art so good and true, 
Lo, how that thou bewray 'st murder alway. 






Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 


*concealed <14> 

Murder will out, that see we day by day 

Murder is so wlatsom* and abominable 

To God, that is so just and reasonable. 

That he will not suffer it heled* be; 

Though it abide a year, or two, or three. 

Murder will out, this is my conclusioun. 

And right anon, the ministers of the town 

Have hent* the carter, and so sore him pined,** *seized **tortured 

And eke the hostelere so sore engined,* *racked 

That they beknew* their wickedness anon, *confessed 

And were hanged by the necke bone. 

"Here may ye see that dreames be to dread. 

And certes in the same book I read, 

Right in the nexte chapter after this 

(I gabbe* not, so have I joy and bliss), *talk idly 

Two men that would, have passed over sea. 

For certain cause, into a far country. 

If that the wind not hadde been contrary. 

That made them in a city for to tarry. 

That stood full merry upon an haven side; 

But on a day, against the even-tide. 

The wind gan change, and blew right *as them lest.* *as they wished* 

Jolly and glad they wente to their rest. 

And caste* them full early for to sail. *resolved 

But to the one man fell a great marvail 

That one of them, in sleeping as he lay. 

He mette* a wondrous dream, against the day: *dreamed 

He thought a man stood by his bedde's side. 

And him commanded that he should abide; 

And said him thus; 'If thou to-morrow wend. 

Thou shalt be drown'd; my tale is at an end.' 

He woke, and told his follow what he mette. 

And prayed him his voyage for to let;* *delay 

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As for that day, he pray'd him to abide. 

His fellow, that layby his bedde's side, 

Gan for to laugh, and scorned him full fast. 

'No dream,' quoth he,'may so my heart aghast,* *frighten 

That I will lette* for to do my things.* *delay 

I sette not a straw by thy dreamings. 

For swevens* be but vanities and japes.** *dreams **jokes,deceits 

Men dream all day of owles and of apes. 

And eke of many a maze* therewithal; *wild imagining 

Men dream of thing that never was, nor shall. 

But since I see, that thou wilt here abide. 

And thus forslothe* wilfully thy tide,** *idle away **time 

God wot, *it rueth me;* and have good day' *I am sorry for it* 

And thus he took his leave, and went his way. 

But, ere that he had half his course sail'd, 

I know not why, nor what mischance it ail'd. 

But casually* the ship's bottom rent, *by accident 

And ship and man under the water went. 

In sight of other shippes there beside 

That with him sailed at the same tide. 


"And therefore, faire Partelote so dear. 

By such examples olde may'st thou lear,* *learn 

That no man shoulde be too reckeless 

Of dreames, for I say thee doubteless. 

That many a dream full sore is for to dread. 

Lo, in the life of Saint Kenelm <15> I read. 

That was Kenulphus' son, the noble king 

Of Mercenrike, <16> how Kenelm mette a thing. 

A little ere he was murder'd on a day. 

His murder in his vision he say* *saw 

His norice* him expounded every deal** *nurse **part 

His sweven, and bade him to keep* him well *guard 

For treason; but he was but seven years old. 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

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And therefore *little tale hath he told* *he attached little 

Of any dream, so holy was his heart. significance to* 

By God, I hadde lever than my shirt 

That ye had read his legend, as have I. 

Dame Partelote, I say you truely, 

Macrobius, that wrote the vision 

In Afric' of the worthy Scipion, < 17> 

Affirmeth dreames, and saith that they be 

'Warnings of thinges that men after see. 

And furthermore, I pray you looke well 

In the Old Testament, of Daniel, 

If he held dreames any vanity. 

Read eke of Joseph, and there shall ye see 

Whether dreams be sometimes (I say not all) 

Warnings of thinges that shall after fall. 

Look of Egypt the king, Dan Pharaoh, 

His baker and his buteler also. 

Whether they felte none effect* in dreams. *significance 

Whoso will seek the acts of sundry remes* *realms 

May read of dreames many a wondrous thing. 

Lo Croesus, which that was of Lydia king, 

Mette he not that he sat upon a tree. 

Which signified he shoulde hanged be? < 18> 

Lo here, Andromache, Hectore's wife, < 19> 

That day that Hector shoulde lose his life. 

She dreamed on the same night beforn. 

How that the life of Hector should be lorn,* *lost 

If thilke day he went into battaile; 

She warned him, but it might not avail; 

He wente forth to fighte natheless. 

And was y-slain anon of Achilles. 

But thilke tale is all too long to tell; 

And eke it is nigh day, I may not dwell. 

Shortly I say, as for conclusion. 

That I shall have of this avision 
Adversity; and I say furthermore. 
That I ne *tell of laxatives no store,* 
For they be venomous, I wot it well; 
I them defy* I love them never a del.* 

*hold laxatives 
of no value* 
*distrust **whit 

"But let us speak of mirth, and stint* all this; *cease 

Madame Partelote, so have I bliss. 

Of one thing God hath sent me large* grace; liberal 

For when I see the beauty of your face. 

Ye be so scarlet-hued about your eyen, 

I maketh all my dreade for to dien. 

For, all so sicker* as In principio,<20> *certain 

Mulier est hominis confusio.<21> 

Madam, the sentence* of of this Latin is, *meaning 

Woman is manne's joy and manne's bliss. 

For when I feel at night your softe side, — 

Albeit that I may not on you ride. 

For that our perch is made so narrow, Alas! 

I am so full of joy and of solas,* *delight 

That I defy both sweven and eke dream." 

And with that word he flew down from the beam. 

For it was day, and eke his hennes all; 

And with a chuck he gan them for to call. 

For he had found a corn, lay in the yard. 

Royal he was, he was no more afear'd; 

He feather'd Partelote twenty time. 

And as oft trode her, ere that it was prime. 

He looked as it were a grim lion. 

And on his toes he roamed up and down; 

He deigned not to set his feet to ground; 

He chucked, when he had a corn y- found. 

And to him ranne then his wives all. 

Thus royal, as a prince is in his hall. 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Leave I this Chanticleer in his pasture; 
And after will I tell his aventure. 

When that the month in which the world began, 

That highte March, when God first maked man. 

Was complete, and y-passed were also. 

Since March ended, thirty days and two. 

Befell that Chanticleer in all his pride. 

His seven wives walking him beside. 

Cast up his eyen to the brighte sun. 

That in the sign of Taurus had y-run 

Twenty degrees and one, and somewhat more; 

He knew by kind,* and by none other lore,** *nature **learning 

That it was prime, and crew with blissful Steven.* *voice 

"The sun," he said, "is clomben up in heaven 

Twenty degrees and one, and more y-wis.* *assuredly 

Madame Partelote, my worlde's bliss. 

Hearken these blissful birdes how they sing. 

And see the freshe flowers how they spring; 

Full is mine heart of revel and solace." 

But suddenly him fell a sorrowful case;* *casualty 

For ever the latter end of joy is woe: 

God wot that worldly joy is soon y-go: 

And, if a rhetor* coulde fair indite, *orator 

He in a chronicle might it safely write. 

As for *a sov'reign notability* *a thing supremely notable* 

Now every wise man, let him hearken me; 

This story is all as true, I undertake. 

As is the book of Launcelot du Lake, 

That women hold in full great reverence. 

Now will I turn again to my sentence. 

A col-fox, <22> full of sly iniquity. 

That in the grove had wonned* yeares three. 


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*crouching, lurking 

By high imagination forecast. 

The same night thorough the hedges brast* *burst 

Into the yard, where Chanticleer the fair 

Was wont, and eke his wives, to repair; 

And in a bed of wortes* still he lay, *cabbages 

Till it was passed undern <23> of the day. 

Waiting his time on Chanticleer to fall: 

As gladly do these homicides all. 

That in awaite lie to murder men. 

O false murd'rer! Rouking* in thy den! 

O newlscariot, new Ganilion! <24> 

O false dissimuler, O Greek Sinon,<25> 

That broughtest Troy all utterly to sorrow! 

O Chanticleer! accursed be the morrow 

That thou into thy yard flew from the beams;* 

Thou wert full well y-warned by thy dreams 

That thilke day was perilous to thee. 

But what that God forewot* must needes be. 

After th' opinion of certain clerkes. 

Witness on him that any perfect clerk is. 

That in school is great altercation 

In this matter, and great disputation. 

And hath been of an hundred thousand men. 

But I ne cannot *boult it to the bren,* *examine it thoroughly <26>* 

As can the holy doctor Augustine, 

Or Boece, or the bishop Bradwardine,<27> 

Whether that Godde's worthy foreweeting* *foreknowledge 

*Straineth me needly* for to do a thing *forces me* 

(Needly call I simple necessity). 

Or elles if free choice be granted me 

To do that same thing, or do it not. 

Though God forewot* it ere that it was wrought; *knew in advance 

Or if *his weeting straineth never a deal,* *his knowing constrains 

But by necessity conditionel. not at all* 




Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

I will not have to do of such mattere; 

My tale is of a cock, as ye may hear, 

That took his counsel of his wife, with sorrow. 

To walken in the yard upon the morrow 

That he had mette the dream, as I you told. 

Womane's counsels be full often cold;* *mischievous, unwise 

Womane's counsel brought us first to woe. 

And made Adam from Paradise to go. 

There as he was full merry and well at case. 

But, for I n'ot* to whom I might displease *know not 

If I counsel of women woulde blame. 

Pass over, for I said it in my game.* *jest 

Read authors, where they treat of such mattere 

And what they say of women ye may hear. 

These be the cocke's wordes, and not mine; 

I can no harm of no woman divine.* *conjecture, imagine 

Fair in the sand, to bathe* her merrily, *bask 

Lies Partelote, and all her sisters by. 

Against the sun, and Chanticleer so free 

Sang merrier than the mermaid in the sea; 

For Physiologus saith sickerly,* *certainly 

How that they singe well and merrily. <28> 

And so befell that, as he cast his eye 

Among the wortes,* on a butterfly, *cabbages 

He was ware of this fox that lay full low. 

Nothing *ne list him thenne* for to crow, *he had no inclination* 

But cried anon "Cock! cock!" and up he start. 

As man that was affrayed in his heart. 

For naturally a beast desireth flee 

From his contrary,* if be may it see, *enemy 

Though he *ne'er erst* had soon it with his eye *never before* 

This Chanticleer, when he gan him espy. 

He would have fled, but that the fox anon 

Said, "Gentle Sir, alas! why will ye gon? 

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enjoy, possess, or use 

Be ye afraid of me that am your friend? 

Now, certes, I were worse than any fiend. 

If I to you would harm or villainy. 

I am not come your counsel to espy. 

But truely the cause of my coming 

Was only for to hearken how ye sing; 

For truely ye have as merry a Steven,* 

As any angel hath that is in heaven; 

Therewith ye have of music more feeling. 

Than had Boece, or any that can sing. 

My lord your father (God his soule bless) 

And eke your mother of her gentleness. 

Have in mnine house been, to my great ease:* 

And certes. Sir, full fain would I you please. 

But, for men speak of singing, I will say. 

So may I brooke* well mine eyen tway. 

Save you, I hearde never man so sing 

As did your father in the morrowning. 

Certes it was of heart all that he sung. 

And, for to make his voice the more strong. 

He would *so pain him,* that with both his eyen *make such an exertion* 

He muste wink, so loud he woulde cryen. 

And standen on his tiptoes therewithal. 

And stretche forth his necke long and small. 

And eke he was of such discretion. 

That there was no man, in no region. 

That him in song or wisdom mighte pass. 

I have well read in Dan Burnel the Ass, <29> 

Among his verse, how that there was a cock 

That, for* a prieste's son gave him a knock 

Upon his leg, while he was young and nice,* 

He made him for to lose his benefice. 

But certain there is no comparison 

Betwixt the wisdom and discretion 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Of youre father, and his subtilty. 

Now singe, Sir, for sainte charity. 

Let see, can ye your father counterfeit?" 

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(For on a Friday, soothly, slain was he). 

Then would I shew you how that I could plain* *lament 

For Chanticleere's dread, and for his pain. 


This Chanticleer his wings began to beat. 
As man that could not his treason espy. 
So was he ravish'd with his flattery 
Alas! ye lordes, many a false flattour* 
Is in your court, and many a losengeour, * 
That please you well more, by my faith. 
Than he that soothfastness* unto you saith. 
Read in Ecclesiast' of flattery; 
Beware, ye lordes, of their treachery 
This Chanticleer stood high upon his toes. 
Stretching his neck, and held his eyen close. 
And gan to crowe loude for the nonce 
And Dan Russel <32> the fox start up at once. 
And *by the gorge hente* Chanticleer, ^ 

And on his back toward the wood him bare. 
For yet was there no man that him pursu'd. 
O destiny, that may'st not be eschew'd!* 
Alas, that Chanticleer flew from the beams! 
Alas, his wife raughte* nought of dreams! 
And on a Friday fell all this mischance. 
O Venus, that art goddess of pleasance. 
Since that thy servant was this Chanticleer 
And in thy service did all his powere. 
More for delight, than the world to multiply. 
Why wilt thou suffer him on thy day to die? 
O Gaufrid, deare master sovereign, <33> 
That, when thy worthy king Richard was slain 
With shot, complainedest his death so sore. 
Why n'had I now thy sentence and thy lore. 
The Friday for to chiden, as did ye? 

*flatterer <30> 
*deceiver <31> 


seized by the throat* 


Certes such cry nor lamentation 

Was ne'er of ladies made, when Ilion 

Was won, and Pyrrhus with his straighte sword. 

When he had hent* king Priam by the beard, *seized 

And slain him (as saith us Eneidos*),<34> *The Aeneid 

As maden all the hennes in the close,* *yard 

When they had seen of Chanticleer the sight. 

But sov'reignly* Dame Partelote shright,** *above all others 

Full louder than did Hasdrubale's wife, **shrieked 

When that her husband hadde lost his life. 

And that the Romans had y-burnt Carthage; 

She was so full of torment and of rage. 

That wilfully into the fire she start. 

And burnt herselfe with a steadfast heart. 

O woeful hennes! right so cried ye. 

As, when that Nero burned the city 

Of Rome, cried the senatores' wives. 

For that their husbands losten all their lives; 

Withoute guilt this Nero hath them slain. 

Now will I turn unto my tale again; 

The sely* widow, and her daughters two, *simple, honest 

Hearde these hennes cry and make woe. 

And at the doors out started they anon. 

And saw the fox toward the wood is gone. 

And bare upon his back the cock away: 

They cried, "Out! harow! and well-away! 

Aha! the fox!" and after him they ran. 

And eke with staves many another man 

Ran Coll our dog, and Talbot, and Garland; 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And Malkin, with her distaff in her hand 

Ran cow and calf, and eke the very hogges 

So fear'd they were for barking of the dogges, 

And shouting of the men and women eke. 

They ranne so, them thought their hearts would break. 

They yelled as the fiendes do in hell; 

The duckes cried as men would them quell;* ^ 

The geese for feare flewen o'er the trees. 

Out of the hive came the swarm of bees. 

So hideous was the noise, ben'dicite! 

Certes he, Jacke Straw, < 35 > and his meinie,* 

Ne made never shoutes half so shrill 

When that they woulden any Fleming kill. 

As thilke day was made upon the fox. 

Of brass they broughte beames* and of box, * 

Of horn and bone, in which they blew and pooped,* 

And therewithal they shrieked and they hooped; 

It seemed as the heaven shoulde fall 

kill, destroy 


trumpets <36> 

Now, goode men, I pray you hearken all; 

Lo, how Fortune turneth suddenly 

The hope and pride eke of her enemy. 

This cock, that lay upon the fox's back. 

In all his dread unto the fox he spake. 

And saide, "Sir, if that I were as ye. 

Yet would I say (as wisly* God help me), 

'Turn ye again, ye proude churles all; 

A very pestilence upon you fall. 

Now am I come unto the woode's side, 

Maugre your head, the cock shall here abide; 

I will him eat, in faith, and that anon.'" 

The fox answer'd, "In faith it shall be done:" 

And, as he spake the word, all suddenly 

The cock brake from his mouth deliverly,* 



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And high upon a tree he flew anon. 

And when the fox saw that the cock was gone, 

"Alas!" quoth he, "O Chanticleer, alas! 

I have," quoth he, "y-done to you trespass,* *offence 

Inasmuch as I maked you afear'd. 

When I you hent,* and brought out of your yard; *took 

But, Sir, I did it in no wick' intent; 

Come down, and I shall tell you what I meant. 

I shall say sooth to you, God help me so." 

"Nay then," quoth he, "I shrew* us both the two, *curse 

And first I shrew myself, both blood and bones. 

If thou beguile me oftener than once. 

Thou shalt no more through thy flattery 

Do* me to sing and winke with mine eye; *cause 

For he that winketh when he shoulde see. 

All wilfully, God let him never the."* *thrive 

"Nay," quoth the fox; "but God give him mischance 

That is so indiscreet of governance. 

That jangleth* when that he should hold his peace." *chatters 


Lo, what it is for to be reckeless 
And negligent, and trust on flattery. 
But ye that holde this tale a folly. 
As of a fox, or of a cock or hen. 
Take the morality thereof, good men. 
For Saint Paul saith,That all that written is, 
*To our doctrine it written is y-wis.* <37> 
Take the fruit, and let the chaff be still. 

*is surely written for 
our instruction* 

Now goode God, if that it be thy will. 

As saith my Lord, <38> so make us all good men; 

And bring us all to thy high bliss. Amen. 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

The Epilogue. 

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"Sir Nunne's Priest," our hoste said anon, 
"Y-blessed be thy breech, and every stone; 
This was a merry tale of Chanticleer. 
But by my truth, if thou wert seculere,* 
Thou wouldest be a treadefowl* aright; 
For if thou have courage as thou hast might. 
Thee were need of hennes, as I ween. 
Yea more than seven times seventeen. 
See, whate brawnes* hath this gentle priest. 
So great a neck, and such a large breast 
He looketh as a sperhawk with his eyen 
Him needeth not his colour for to dyen 
With Brazil, nor with grain of Portugale. 
But, Sir, faire fall you for your tale'." 
And, after that, he with full merry cheer 
Said to another, as ye shall hear. 

*a layman 

*muscles, sinews 

me (^ee&?id ^yVw/v'^ t:ya/e. 

The minister and norice* unto vices, *nurse 

Which that men call in English idleness. 

The porter at the gate is of delices;* *delights 

T'eschew, and by her contrar' her oppress, — 

That is to say, by lawful business,* — *occupation, activity 

Well oughte we to *do our all intent* *^Ppty ourselves* 

Lest that the fiend through idleness us hent.* *seize 

For he, that with his thousand cordes sly 
Continually us waiteth to beclap,* 
When he may man in idleness espy. 
He can so lightly catch him in his trap. 
Till that a man be hent* right by the lappe,** 
He is not ware the fiend hath him in hand; 
Well ought we work, and idleness withstand. 

*entangle, bind 


And though men dreaded never for to die. 
Yet see men well by reason, doubteless. 
That idleness is root of sluggardy. 
Of which there cometh never good increase; 
And see that sloth them holdeth in a leas,* 
Only to sleep, and for to eat and drink. 
And to devouren all that others swink.* 

*leash <2> 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And, for to put us from such idleness, 

That cause is of so great confusion, 

I have here done my faithful business. 

After the Legend, in translation 

Right of thy glorious life and passion, — 

Thou with thy garland wrought of rose and lily. 

Thee mean I, maid and martyr. Saint Cecilie. 

And thou, thou art the flow'r of virgins all. 

Of whom that Bernard list so well to write, <3> 

To thee at my beginning first I call; 

Thou comfort of us wretches, do me indite 

Thy maiden's death, that won through her merite 

Th' eternal life, and o'er the fiend victory. 

As man may after readen in her story 

Thou maid and mother, daughter of thy Son, 

Thou well of mercy, sinful soules' cure. 

In whom that God of bounte chose to won;* *dwell 

Thou humble and high o'er every creature. 

Thou nobilest, *so far forth our nature,* *as far as our nature admits* 

That no disdain the Maker had of kind,* *nature 

His Son in blood and flesh to clothe and wind.* *wrap 

Within the cloister of thy blissful sides 

Took manne's shape th' eternal love and peace. 

That of *the trine compass* Lord and guide is *the trinity* 

Whom earth, and sea, and heav'n, *out of release,* *unceasingly 

*Aye hery;* and thou. Virgin wemmeless,* *forever praise* *immaculate 

Bare of thy body, and dweltest maiden pure. 

The Creator of every creature. 

Assembled is in thee magnificence <4> 
With mercy, goodness, and with such pity. 

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That thou, that art the sun of excellence. 
Not only helpest them that pray to thee. 
But oftentime, of thy benignity. 
Full freely, ere that men thine help beseech. 
Thou go'st before, and art their lives' leech.* 


*healer, saviour. 

Now help, thou meek and blissful faire maid. 
Me, flemed* wretch, in this desert of gall; 
Think on the woman Cananee that said 
That whelpes eat some of the crumbes all 
That from their Lorde's table be y-fall;<5> 
And though that I, unworthy son of Eve,<6> 
Be sinful, yet accepte my believe.* 

*banished, outcast 


And, for that faith is dead withoute werkes. 

For to worke give me wit and space. 

That I be *quit from thennes that most derk is;* *freed from the most 

O thou, that art so fair and full of grace, dark place (Hell)* 

Be thou mine advocate in that high place. 

Where as withouten end is sung Osanne, 

Thou Christe's mother, daughter dear of Anne. 

And of thy light my soul in prison light. 

That troubled is by the contagion 

Of my body, and also by the weight 

Of earthly lust and false affection; 

O hav'n of refuge, O salvation 

Of them that be in sorrow and distress. 

Now help, for to my work I will me dress. 

Yet pray I you, that reade what I write, <6> 

Forgive me that I do no diligence 

This ilke* story subtilly t' indite. 

For both have I the wordes and sentence 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Of him that at the sainte's reverence 
The story wrote, and follow her legend; 
And pray you that you will my work amend. 

First will I you the name of Saint Cecilie 

Expound, as men may in her story see. 

It is to say in English, Heaven's lily,<7> 

For pure chasteness of virginity; 

Or, for she whiteness had of honesty,* *purity 

And green of conscience, and of good fame 

The sweete savour, Lilie was her name. 

Or Cecilie is to say, the way of blind; <7> 

For she example was by good teaching; 

Or else Cecilie, as I written fmd. 

Is joined by a manner conjoining 

Of heaven and Lia, <7> and herein figuring 

The heaven is set for thought of holiness. 

And Lia for her lasting business. 

Cecilie may eke be said in this mannere. 

Wanting of blindness, for her greate light 

Of sapience, and for her thewes* clear. *qualities 

Or elles, lo, this maiden's name bright 

Of heaven and Leos <7> comes, for which by right 

Men might her well the heaven of people call. 

Example of good and wise workes all; 

For Leos people in English is to say; 

And right as men may in the heaven see 

The sun and moon, and starres everyway. 

Right so men ghostly,* in this maiden free, *spiritually 

Sawen of faith the magnanimity. 

And eke the clearness whole of sapience. 

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And sundry workes bright of excellence. 


And right so as these philosophers write. 

That heav'n is swift and round, and eke burning. 

Right so was faire Cecilie the white 

Full swift and busy in every good working. 

And round and whole in good persevering, <8> 

And burning ever in charity full bright; 

Now have I you declared *what she hight.* *why she had her name* 

This maiden bright Cecile, as her life saith. 
Was come of Romans, and of noble kind, 
And from her cradle foster 'd in the faith 
Of Christ, and bare his Gospel in her mind: 
She never ceased, as I written fmd. 
Of her prayere, and God to love and dread. 
Beseeching him to keep her maidenhead. 

And when this maiden should unto a man 

Y-wedded be, that was full young of age. 

Which that y-called was Valerian, 

And come was the day of marriage. 

She, full devout and humble in her corage,* 

Under her robe of gold, that sat full fair. 

Had next her flesh y-clad her in an hair.* 

And while the organs made melody. 
To God alone thus in her heart sang she; 
"O Lord, my soul and eke my body gie* 
Unwemmed,* lest that I confounded be." 
And, for his love that died upon the tree. 
Every second or third day she fast'. 
Aye bidding* in her orisons full fast. 


^garment of hair-cloth 




Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

The night came, and to bedde must she gon 
With her husband, as it is the mannere; 
And privily she said to him anon; 
"O sweet and well-beloved spouse dear. 
There is a counsel,* an'** ye will it hear. 
Which that right fain I would unto you say. 
So that ye swear ye will it not bewray"* 

Valerian gan fast unto her swear 

That for no case nor thing that mighte be. 

He never should to none bewrayen her; 

And then at erst* thus to him saide she; 

"I have an angel which that loveth me. 

That with great love, whether I wake or sleep. 

Is ready aye my body for to keep; 

"And if that he may feelen, *out of dread,* 
That ye me touch or love in villainy. 
He right anon will slay you with the deed. 
And in your youthe thus ye shoulde die. 
And if that ye in cleane love me gie,"* 
He will you love as me, for your cleanness. 
And shew to you his joy and his brightness." 

Valerian, corrected as God wo'ld. 

Answer 'd again, "If I shall truste thee. 

Let me that angel see, and him behold; 

And if that it a very angel be. 

Then will I do as thou hast prayed me; 

And if thou love another man, forsooth 

Right with this sword then will I slay you both." 

Cecile answer 'd anon right in this wise; 
"If that you list, the angel shall ye see. 

*secret **if 


*for the first time 

*without doubt* 


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So that ye trow* Of Christ, and you baptise; *knov 

Go forth to Via Appia," quoth she. 

That from this towne stands but miles three. 

And to the poore folkes that there dwell 

Say them right thus, as that I shall you tell. 


"Tell them, that I, Cecile, you to them sent 
To shewe you the good Urban the old. 
For secret needes,* and for good intent; 
And when that ye Saint Urban have behold. 
Tell him the wordes which I to you told 
And when that he hath purged you from sin. 
Then shall ye see that angel ere ye twin* 

Valerian is to the place gone; 

And, right as he was taught by her learning 

He found this holy old Urban anon 

Among the saintes' burials louting;* 

And he anon, withoute tarrying. 

Did his message, and when that he it told. 

Urban for joy his handes gan uphold. 



*lying concealed <9> 

The teares from his eyen let he fall; 

"Almighty Lord, O Jesus Christ," 

Quoth he, "Sower of chaste counsel, herd* of us all; *shepherd 

The fruit of thilke* seed of chastity *that 

That thou hast sown in Cecile, take to thee 

Lo, like a busy bee, withoute guile. 

Thee serveth aye thine owen thrall* Cicile, *servant 

"For thilke spouse, that she took *but now,* 
Full like a fierce lion, she sendeth here. 
As meek as e'er was any lamb to owe." 
And with that word anon there gan appear 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

An old man, clad in white clothes clear, 
That had a book with letters of gold in hand. 
And gan before Valerian to stand. 

Valerian, as dead, fell down for dread. 
When he him saw; and he up hent* him tho,** 
And on his book right thus he gan to read; 
"One Lord, one faith, one God withoute mo'. 
One Christendom, one Father of all also, 
Aboven all, and over all everywhere." 
These wordes all with gold y- written were. 

*took **there 

When this was read, then said this olde man, 
"Believ'st thou this or no? say yea or nay." 
"I believe all this," quoth Valerian, 
"For soother* thing than this, I dare well say. 
Under the Heaven no wight thinke may." 
Then vanish'd the old man, he wist not where 
And Pope Urban him christened right there. 


Valerian went home, and found Cecilie 
Within his chamber with an angel stand; 
This angel had of roses and of lily 
Corones* two, the which he bare in hand. 
And first to Cecile, as I understand. 
He gave the one, and after gan he take 
The other to Valerian her make.* 

*mate, husband 

"With body clean, and with unwemmed* thought. 
Keep aye well these corones two," quoth he; 
"From Paradise to you I have them brought. 
Nor ever more shall they rotten be. 
Nor lose their sweet savour, truste me. 
Nor ever wight shall see them with his eye. 

*unspotted, blameless 

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But he be chaste, and hate villainy. 


"And thou. Valerian, for thou so soon 

Assented hast to good counsel, also 

Say what thee list,* and thou shalt have thy boon.' 

"I have a brother," quoth Valerian tho,* 

"That in this world I love no man so; 

I pray you that my brother may have grace 

To know the truth, as I do in this place." 

*wish **desire 

The angel said, "God liketh thy request. 
And bothe, with the palm of martyrdom. 
Ye shalle come unto this blissful rest." 
And, with that word, Tiburce his brother came. 
And when that he the savour undernome* 
Which that the roses and the lilies cast. 
Within his heart he gan to wonder fast; 


And said; "I wonder, this time of the year. 
Whence that sweete savour cometh so 
Of rose and lilies, that I smelle here; 
For though I had them in mine handes two. 
The savour might in me no deeper go; 
The sweete smell, that in my heart I fmd. 
Hath changed me all in another kind." 

Valerian said, "Two crownes here have we. 
Snow-white and rose-red, that shine clear. 
Which that thine eyen have no might to see; 
And, as thou smellest them through my prayere. 
So shalt thou see them, leve* brother dear. 
If it so be thou wilt withoute sloth 
Believe aright, and know the very troth. " 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Tiburce answered, "Say'st thou this to me 

In soothness, or in dreame hear I this?" 

"In dreames," quoth Valorian, "have we be 

Unto this time, brother mine, y-wis 

But now *at erst* in truth our dwelling is." *for the first time* 

How know'st thou this," quoth Tiburce; "in what wise?" 

Quoth Valerian, "That shall I thee devise* *describe 

"The angel of God hath me the truth y-taught. 

Which thou shalt see, if that thou wilt reny* *renounce 

The idols, and be clean, and elles nought." 

[And of the miracle of these crownes tway 

Saint Ambrose in his preface list to say; 

Solemnely this noble doctor dear 

Commendeth it, and saith in this mannere 

"The palm of martyrdom for to receive. 

Saint Cecilie, full filled of God's gift. 

The world and eke her chamber gan to weive;* 

Witness Tiburce's and Cecilie's shrift,* 

To which God of his bounty woulde shift 

Corones two, of flowers well smelling. 

And made his angel them the crownes bring. 


"The maid hath brought these men to bliss above; 

The world hath wist what it is worth, certain. 

Devotion of chastity to love."] <10> 

Then showed him Cecilie all open and plain. 

That idols all are but a thing in vain. 

For they be dumb, and thereto* they be deave;** 

And charged him his idols for to leave. 

*therefore **deaf 

"Whoso that troweth* not this, a beast he is," 
Quoth this Tiburce, "if that I shall not lie." 


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And she gan kiss his breast when she heard this. 

And was full glad he could the truth espy: 

"This day I take thee for mine ally."* *chosen friend 

Saide this blissful faire maiden dear; 

And after that she said as ye may hear. 

"Lo, right so as the love of Christ," quoth she, 
"Made me thy brother's wife, right in that wise 
Anon for mine ally here take I thee. 
Since that thou wilt thine idoles despise. 
Go with thy brother now and thee baptise. 
And make thee clean, so that thou may'st behold 
The angel's face, of which thy brother told." 

Tiburce answer 'd, and saide, "Brother dear. 

First tell me whither I shall, and to what man?" 

"To whom?" quoth he, "come forth with goode cheer, 

I will thee lead unto the Pope Urban." 

"To Urban? brother mine Valerian," 

Quoth then Tiburce; "wilt thou me thither lead? 

Me thinketh that it were a wondrous deed. 


"Meanest thou not that Urban," quoth he tho,* *then 

"That is so often damned to be dead. 

And wons* in halkes** always to and fro, *dwells **corners 

And dare not ones putte forth his head? 

Men should him brennen* in a fire so red, *burn 

If he were found, or if men might him spy: 

And us also, to bear him company. 

"And while we seeke that Divinity 

That is y-hid in heaven privily, 

Algate* burnt in this world should we be." *nevertheless 

To whom Cecilie answer'd boldely; 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

"Men mighte dreade well and skilfully* 
This life to lose, mine owen deare brother, 
If this were living only, and none other. 


*Holy Spirit 

"But there is better life in other place. 

That never shall be loste, dread thee nought; 

Which Godde's Son us tolde through his grace 

That Father's Son which alle thinges wrought; 

And all that wrought is with a skilful* thought. 

The Ghost,* that from the Father gan proceed. 

Hath souled* them, withouten any drede.** *endowed them with a soul 

Byword and by miracle, high God's Son, 
When he was in this world, declared here. 
That there is other life where men may won."* 
To whom answer'd Tiburce, "O sister dear, 
Saidest thou not right now in this mannere. 
There was but one God, Lord in soothfastness,* 
And now of three how may'st thou bear witness?" 



"That shall I tell," quoth she, "ere that I go. 
Right as a man hath sapiences* three. 
Memory, engine,* and intellect also. 
So in one being of divinity 
Three persones there maye right well be." 
Then gan she him full busily to preach 
Of Christe's coming, and his paines teach. 

*mental faculties 
*wit <11> 

And many pointes of his passion; 

How Godde's Son in this world was withhold* 

To do mankinde plein* remission. 

That was y-bound in sin and cares cold.* 

All this thing she unto Tiburce told. 

And after that Tiburce, in good intent. 

*wretched <12> 

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With Valerian to Pope Urban he went. 


That thanked God, and with glad heart and light 
He christen'd him, and made him in that place 
Perfect in his learning, and Godde's knight. 
And after this Tiburce got such grace. 
That every day he saw in time and space 
Th' angel of God, and every manner boon* 
That be God asked, it was sped* full anon. ^ 

*request, favour 
granted, successful 

It were full hard by order for to sayn 

How many wonders Jesus for them wrought. 

But at the last, to telle short and plain. 

The sergeants of the town of Rome them sought. 

And them before Almach the Prefect brought. 

Which them apposed,* and knew all their intent. 

And to th'image of Jupiter them sent. 


And said, "Whoso will not do sacrifice. 

Swap* off his head, this is my sentence here." *strike 

Anon these martyrs, *that I you devise,* *of whom I tell you* 

One Maximus, that was an officere 

Of the prefect's, and his corniculere <13> 

Them hent,* and when he forth the saintes lad,** *seized **led 

Himself he wept for pity that he had. 

When Maximus had heard the saintes lore,* 
He got him of the tormentores* leave. 
And led them to his house withoute more; 
And with their preaching, ere that it were eve. 
They gonnen* from the tormentors to reave,** 
And from Maxim', and from his folk each one. 
The false faith, to trow* in God alone. 

*doctrine, teaching 

*began **wrest, root out 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Cecilia came, when it was waxen night, 

With priestes, that them christen'd *all in fere;* *in a company* 

And afterward, when day was waxen light, 

Cecile them said with a full steadfast cheer,* *mien 

"Now, Christe's owen knightes lefe* and dear, *beloved 

Cast all away the workes of darkness. 

And arme you in armour of brightness. 

Ye have forsooth y-done a great battaile. 

Your course is done, your faith have ye conserved; < 14> 

O to the crown of life that may not fail; 

The rightful Judge, which that ye have served 

Shall give it you, as ye have it deserved." 

And when this thing was said, as I devise,* relate 

Men led them forth to do the sacrifice. 

But when they were unto the place brought 
To telle shortly the conclusion. 
They would incense nor sacrifice right nought 
But on their knees they sette them adown. 
With humble heart and sad* devotion, 
And loste both their heades in the place; 
Their soules wente to the King of grace. 


This Maximus, that saw this thing betide. 
With piteous teares told it anon right. 
That he their soules saw to heaven glide 
With angels, full of clearness and of light 
Andt with his word converted many a wight. 
For which Almachius *did him to-beat* 
With whip of lead, till he his life gan lete.* 

Cecile him took, and buried him anon 
ByTiburce and Valerian softely. 

*seenote <15>* 

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Within their burying-place, under the stone. 

And after this Almachius hastily 

Bade his ministers fetchen openly 

Cecile, so that she might in his presence 

Do sacrifice, and Jupiter incense.* *burn incense to 




*believe **die 


But they, converted at her wise lore,* 

Wepte full sore, and gave full credence 

Unto her word, and cried more and more; 

"Christ, Godde's Son, withoute difference. 

Is very God, this is all our sentence,* 

That hath so good a servant him to serve 

Thus with one voice we trowe,* though we sterve.^ 

Almachius, that heard of this doing. 
Bade fetch Cecilie, that he might her see; 
And alderfirst,* lo, this was his asking; 
"What manner woman arte thou?" quoth he, 
"I am a gentle woman born," quoth she. 
"I aske thee," quoth he,"though it thee grieve. 
Of thy religion and of thy believe." 

"Ye have begun your question foolishly," 

Quoth she, "that wouldest two answers conclude 

In one demand? ye aske lewedly."* *ignorantly 

Almach answer 'd to that similitude, 

"Of whence comes thine answering so rude?" 

"Of whence?" quoth she, when that she was freined,* *asked 

"Of conscience, and of good faith unfeigned." 

Almachius saide; "Takest thou no heed 
Of my power?" and she him answer 'd this; 
"Your might," quoth she, "full little is to dread; 
For every mortal manne's power is 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

But like a bladder full of wind, y-wis;* 
For with a needle's point, when it is blow'. 
May all the boast of it be laid full low" 


"Full wrongfully begunnest thou," quoth he, 
"And yet in wrong is thy perseverance. 
Know'st thou not how our mighty princes free 
Have thus commanded and made ordinance. 
That every Christian wight shall have penance,* 
But if that he his Christendom withsay,* 
And go all quit, if he will it renay?"* 


"Your princes erren, as your nobley* doth," 

Quoth then Cecile, "and with a *wood sentence* 

Ye make us guilty, and it is not sooth:* 

For ye that knowe well our innocence. 

Forasmuch as we do aye reverence 

To Christ, and for we bear a Christian name. 

Ye put on us a crime and eke a blame. 

*mad judgment* 

"But we that knowe thilke name so 
For virtuous, we may it not withsay." 
Almach answered, "Choose one of these two. 
Do sacrifice, or Christendom renay. 
That thou may'st now escape by that way." 
At which the holy blissful faire maid 
Gan for to laugh, and to the judge said; 

"O judge, *confused in thy nicety* 
Wouldest thou that I reny innocence? 
To make me a wicked wight," quoth she, 
"Lo, he dissimuleth* here in audience; 
He stareth and woodeth* in his advertence."** 
To whom Almachius said, "Unsely* wretch. 

*confounded in thy folly* 

*grows furious **thought 

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Knowest thou not how far my might may stretch? 

"Have not our mighty princes to me given 

Yea bothe power and eke authority 

To make folk to dien or to liven? 

Why speakest thou so proudly then to me?" 

"I speake not but steadfastly," quoth she. 

Not proudly, for I say, as for my side. 

We hate deadly* thilke vice of pride. 


"And, if thou dreade not a sooth* to hear. 
Then will I shew all openly by right. 
That thou hast made a full great leasing* here. 
Thou say'st thy princes have thee given might 
Both for to slay and for to quick* a wight, — 
Thou that may'st not but only life bereave; 
Thou hast none other power nor no leave. 

"But thou may'st say, thy princes have thee maked 

Minister of death; for if thou speak of mo'. 

Thou liest; for thy power is full naked." 

"Do away thy boldness," said Almachius tho,* 

"And sacrifice to our gods, ere thou go. 

I recke not what wrong that thou me proffer. 

For I can suffer it as a philosopher. 

"But those wronges may I not endure. 

That thou speak'st of our goddes here," quoth he. 

Cecile answer 'd, "O nice* creature. 

Thou saidest no word, since thou spake to me. 

That I knew not therewith thy nicety* 

And that thou wert in *every manner wise* 

A lewed* officer, a vain justice. 

*give life to 



* every sort of way* 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

"There lacketh nothing to thine outward eyen 
That thou art blind; for thing that we see all 
That it is stone, that men may well espyen, 
That ilke* stone a god thou wilt it call. 
I rede* thee let thine hand upon it fall, 
And taste* it well, and stone thou shalt it fmd; 
Since that thou see'st not with thine eyen blind. 

Very, selfsame 
*examine, test 

"It is a shame that the people shall 
So scorne thee, and laugh at thy folly; 
For commonly men *wot it well over all,* 
That mighty God is in his heaven high; 
And these images, well may'st thou espy. 
To thee nor to themselves may not profite. 
For in effect they be not worth a mite." 

*know it everywhere* 

These wordes and such others saide she. 

And he wax'd wroth, and bade men should her lead 

Home to her house; "And in her house," quoth he, 

"Burn her right in a bath, with flames red." 

And as he bade, right so was done the deed; 

For in a bath they gan her faste shetten,* *shut, confme 

And night and day great fire they under betten.* *kindled, applied 

The longe night, and eke a day also. 
For all the fire, and eke the bathe's heat. 
She sat all cold, and felt of it no woe. 
It made her not one droppe for to sweat; 
But in that bath her life she must lete.* 
For he, Almachius, with full wick' intent. 
To slay her in the bath his sonde* sent. 

*message, order 

Three strokes in the neck he smote her tho,* 
The tormentor,* but for no manner chance 


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He might not smite her faire neck in two: 
And, for there was that time an ordinance 
That no man should do man such penance,* 
The fourthe stroke to smite, soft or sore. 
This tormentor he durste do no more; 


seventy, torture 

But half dead, with her necke carven* there *gashed 

He let her lie, and on his way is went. 

The Christian folk, which that about her were. 

With sheetes have the blood full fair y-hent; *taken 

Three dayes lived she in this torment. 

And never ceased them the faith to teach. 

That she had foster'd them, she gan to preach. 


And them she gave her mebles* and her thing. 

And to the Pope Urban betook* them tho;** 

And said, "I aske this of heaven's king. 

To have respite three dayes and no mo'. 

To recommend to you, ere that I go. 

These soules, lo; and that *I might do wirch* 

Here of mine house perpetually a church." 

*commended **then 

*cause to be made* 

Saint Urban, with his deacons, privily 
The body fetch'd, and buried it by night 
Among his other saintes honestly; 
Her house the church of Saint Cecilie hight;* 
Saint Urban hallow'd it, as he well might; 
In which unto this day, in noble wise. 
Men do to Christ and to his saint service. 

*is called 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 



The Prologue. 

*nag **dapple-gray 

WHEN ended was the life of Saint Cecile, 

Ere we had ridden fully five mile, <2> 

At Boughton-under-Blee us gan o'ertake 

A man, that clothed was in clothes black. 

And underneath he wore a white surplice. 

His hackenay,* which was all pomely-gris,** 

So sweated, that it wonder was to see; 

It seem'd as he had pricked* miles three. 

The horse eke that his yeoman rode upon 

So sweated, that unnethes* might he gon.** 

About the peytrel <3> stood the foam full high; 

He was of foam, as *flecked as a pie.* *spotted like a magpie* 

A maile twyfold <4> on his crupper lay; 

It seemed that he carried little array; 

All light for summer rode this worthy man. 

And in my heart to wonder I began 

What that he was, till that I understood 

How that his cloak was sewed to his hood; 

For which, when I had long advised* me, *considered 

I deemed him some Canon for to be. 

His hat hung at his back down by a lace,* *cord 

For he had ridden more than trot or pace; 

He hadde pricked like as he were wood.* *mad 

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A clote-leaP he had laid under his hood. 

For sweat, and for to keep his head from heat. 

But it was joye for to see him sweat; 

His forehead dropped as a stillatory* 

Were full of plantain or of paritory* 

And when that he was come, he gan to cry, 

"God save," quoth he, "this jolly company. 

Fast have I pricked," quoth he, "for your sake. 

Because that I would you overtake. 

To riden in this merry company." 

His Yeoman was eke full of courtesy. 

And saide, "Sirs, now in the morning tide 

Out of your hostelry I saw you ride. 

And warned here my lord and sovereign. 

Which that to ride with you is full fain. 

For his disport; he loveth dalliance." 

"Friend, for thy warning God give thee good chance. 

Said oure Host; "certain it woulde seem 

Thy lord were wise, and so I may well deem; 

He is full jocund also, dare I lay; 

Can he aught tell a merry tale or tway. 

With which he gladden may this company?" 

"Who, Sir? my lord? Yea, Sir, withoute lie. 

He can* of mirth and eke of jollity 

*Not but* enough; also. Sir, truste me. 

An* ye him knew all so well as do I, 

Ye would wonder how well and craftily 

He coulde work, and that in sundry wise. 

He hath take on him many a great emprise,* 

Which were full hard for any that is here 

To bring about, but* they of him it lear.** 

As homely as he rides amonges you. 

If ye him knew, it would be for your prow:* 

Ye woulde not forego his acquaintance 





not less than* 


*task, undertaking 

'unless **learn 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

For muche good, I dare lay in balance 

All that I have in my possession. 

He is a man of high discretion. 

I warn you well, he is a passing* man." *surpassing, extraordinary 

Well," quoth our Host, "I pray thee tell me than. 

Is he a clerk,* or no? Tell what he is." *scholar, priest 

"Nay, he is greater than a clerk, y-wis,"* *certainly 

Saide this Yeoman; "and, in wordes few. 

Host, of his craft somewhat I will you shew, 

I say, my lord can* such a subtlety *knows 

(But all his craft ye may not weet* of me, *learn 

And somewhat help I yet to his working). 

That all the ground on which we be riding 

Till that we come to Canterbury town. 

He could all cleane turnen up so down. 

And pave it all of silver and of gold." 

And when this Yeoman had this tale told 

Unto our Host, he said; "Ben'dicite! 

This thing is wonder marvellous to me. 

Since that thy lord is of so high prudence. 

Because of which men should him reverence. 

That of his worship* recketh he so lite;** *honour **little 

His *overest slop* it is not worth a mite *upper garment* 

As in effect to him, so may I go; 

It is all baudy* and to-tore also. *slovenly 

Why is thy lord so sluttish, I thee pray. 

And is of power better clothes to bey,* *buy 

If that his deed accordeth with thy speech? 

Telle me that, and that I thee beseech." 

"Why?" quoth this Yeoman, "whereto ask ye me? 

God help me so, for he shall never the* 

(But I will not avowe* that I say. 

And therefore keep it secret, I you pray); 


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He is too wise, in faith, as I believe. 

Thing that is overdone, it will not preve* *stand the test 

Aright, as clerkes say; it is a vice; 

Wherefore in that I hold him *lewd and nice."* *ignorant and foolish* 

For when a man hath over great a wit. 

Full oft him happens to misusen it; 

So doth my lord, and that me grieveth sore. 

God it amend; I can say now no more." 



"Thereof *no force,* good Yeoman, "quoth our Host; *no matter* 

"Since of the conning* of thy lord, thou know'st, *knowledge 

Tell how he doth, I pray thee heartily. 

Since that be is so crafty and so sly* *wise 

Where dwelle ye, if it to telle be?" 

"In the suburbes of a town," quoth he, 

"Lurking in hemes* and in lanes blind. 

Where as these robbers and these thieves by kind* 

Holde their privy fearful residence. 

As they that dare not show their presence. 

So fare we, if I shall say the soothe."* *truth 

"Yet," quoth our Hoste, "let me talke to thee; 

Why art thou so discolour'd of thy face?" 

"Peter!" quoth he, "God give it harde grace, 

I am so us'd the bote fire to blow. 

That it hath changed my colour, I trow; 

I am not wont in no mirror to pry. 

But swinke* sore, and learn to multiply. <5> *labour 

We blunder* ever, and poren** in the fire, *toil **peer 

And, for all that, we fail of our desire 

For ever we lack our conclusion 

To muche folk we do illusion. 

And borrow gold, be it a pound or two. 

Or ten or twelve, or many summes mo'. 

And make them weenen,* at the leaste way, *fancy 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

That of a pounde we can make tway. 

Yet is it false; and aye we have good hope 

It for to do, and after it we grope:* *search, strive 

But that science is so far us beforn, 

That we may not, although we had it sworn. 

It overtake, it slides away so fast; 

It will us make beggars at the last." 

While this Yeoman was thus in his talking. 

This Canon drew him near, and heard all thing 

Which this Yeoman spake, for suspicion 

Of menne's speech ever had this Canon: 

For Cato saith, that he that guilty is, <6> 

Deemeth all things be spoken of him y-wis;* *surely 

Because of that he gan so nigh to draw 

To his Yeoman, that he heard all his saw; 

And thus he said unto his Yeoman tho* *then 

"Hold thou thy peace,and speak no wordes mo': 

For if thou do, thou shalt *it dear abie.* *pay dearly for it* 

Thou slanderest me here in this company 

And eke discoverest that thou shouldest hide." 

"Yea," quoth our Host, "tell on, whatso betide; 

Of all his threatening reck not a mite." 

"In faith," quoth he, "no more do I but lite."* *little 

And when this Canon saw it would not be 

But his Yeoman would tell his privity,* *secrets 

He fled away for very sorrow and shame. 

"Ah!" quoth the Yeoman, "here shall rise a game;* 

All that I can anon I will you tell. 

Since he is gone; the foule fiend him quell!* 

For ne'er hereafter will I with him meet. 

For penny nor for pound, I you behete.* 

He that me broughte first unto that game. 

Ere that he die, sorrow have he and shame. 

*some diversion 



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For it is earnest* to me, by my faith; 

That feel I well, what so any man saith; 

And yet for all my smart, and all my grief. 

For all my sorrow, labour, and mischief,* 

I coulde never leave it in no wise. 

Now would to God my witte might suffice 

To tellen all that longeth to that art! 

But natheless yet will I telle part; 

Since that my lord is gone, I will not spare; 

Such thing as that I know, I will declare." 

a serious matter 


The Tale. 

With this Canon I dwelt have seven year. 

And of his science am I ne'er the near* 

All that I had I have lost thereby. 

And, God wot, so have many more than I. 

Where I was wont to be right fresh and gay 

Of clothing, and of other good array 

Now may I wear an hose upon mine head; 

And where my colour was both fresh and red. 

Now is it wan, and of a leaden hue 

(Whoso it useth, sore shall he it rue); 

And of my swink* yet bleared is mine eye; 

Lo what advantage is to multiply! 

That sliding* science hath me made so bare. 

That I have no good,* where that ever I fare; 

And yet I am indebted so thereby 

Of gold, that I have borrow'd truely. 

That, while I live, I shall it quite* never; 

Let every man beware by me for ever. 

What manner man that casteth* him thereto, *betaketh 

If he continue, I hold *his thrift y-do;* *prosperity at an end* 


slippery, deceptive 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

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So help me God, thereby shall he not win, 

But empty his purse, and make his wittes thin. 

And when he, through his madness and folly. 

Hath lost his owen good through jupartie,* *hazard <2> 

Then he exciteth other men thereto. 

To lose their good as he himself hath do'. 

For unto shrewes* joy it is and ease *wicked folk 

To have their fellows in pain and disease.* *trouble 

Thus was I ones learned of a clerk; 

Of that no charge;* I will speak of our work. *matter 

When we be there as we shall exercise 

Our elvish* craft, we seeme wonder wise. 

Our termes be so *clergial and quaint.* 

I blow the fire till that mine hearte faint. 

Why should I tellen each proportion 

Of thinges, whiche that we work upon. 

As on five or six ounces, may well be. 

Of silver, or some other quantity? 

And busy me to telle you the names. 

As orpiment, burnt bones, iron squames,* 

That into powder grounden be full small? 

And in an earthen pot how put is all. 

And, salt y-put in, and also peppere. 

Before these powders that I speak of here. 

And well y-cover'd with a lamp of glass? 

And of much other thing which that there was? 

And of the pots and glasses engluting,* 

That of the air might passen out no thing? 

And of the easy* fire, and smart** also. 

Which that was made? and of the care and woe 

That we had in our matters subliming. 

And in amalgaming, and calcining 

Of quicksilver, called mercury crude? 

*fantastic, wicked 
learned and strange 

*scales <3> 

*sealing up 
*slow **quick 


For all our sleightes we can not conclude. 
Our orpiment, and sublim'd mercury. 
Our ground litharge* eke on the porphyry. 
Of each of these of ounces a certain,* 
Not helpeth us, our labour is in vain. 
Nor neither our spirits' ascensioun. 
Nor our matters that lie all fix'd adown. 
May in our working nothing us avail; 
For lost is all our labour and travail. 
And all the cost, a twenty devil way. 
Is lost also, which we upon it lay. 

There is also full many another thing 

That is unto our craft appertaining. 

Though I by order them not rehearse can. 

Because that I am a lewed* man; 

Yet will I tell them as they come to mind. 

Although I cannot set them in their kind. 

As sal-armoniac, verdigris, borace; 

And sundry vessels made of earth and glass; <4 

Our urinales, and our descensories. 

Phials, and croslets, and sublimatories, 

Cucurbites, and alembikes eke. 

And other suche, *dear enough a leek,* 

It needeth not for to rehearse them all. 

Waters rubifying, and bulks' gall. 

Arsenic, sal-armoniac, and brimstone. 

And herbes could I tell eke many a one. 

As egremoine,* valerian, and lunary,** 

And other such, if that me list to tarry; 

Our lampes burning bothe night and day. 

To bring about our craft if that we may; 

Our furnace eke of calcination. 

And of waters albification. 

*white lead 
*certain proportion 


Worth less than a leek* 

agrimony moon-wort 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Unslaked lime, chalk, and *glair of an ey,* *egg-white 

Powders diverse, ashes, dung, piss, and clay. 

Seared pokettes,<5> saltpetre, and vitriol; 

And divers fires made of wood and coal; 

Sal-tartar, alkali, salt preparate. 

And combust matters, and coagulate; 

Clay made with horse and manne's hair, and oil 

Of tartar, alum, glass, barm, wort, argoil,* 

Rosalgar,* and other matters imbibing; 

And eke of our matters encorporing,* 

And of our silver citrination, <7> 

Our cementing, and fermentation. 

Our ingots,* tests, and many thinges mo'. 

I will you tell, as was me taught also. 

The foure spirits, and the bodies seven. 

By order, as oft I heard my lord them neven.* *name 

The first spirit Quicksilver called is; 

The second Orpiment; the third, y-wis, 

Sal-Armoniac, and the fourth Brimstone. 

The bodies sev'n eke, lo them here anon. 

Sol gold is, and Luna silver we threpe* *name <9> 

Mars iron. Mercury quicksilver we clepe;* *call 

Saturnus lead, and Jupiter is tin. 

And Venus copper, by my father's kin. 

*p otter's clay<6> 
*flowers of antimony 

*moulds <8> 

This cursed craft whoso will exercise. 

He shall no good have that him may suffice; 

For all the good he spendeth thereabout. 

He lose shall, thereof have I no doubt. 

Whoso that list to utter* his folly *display 

Let him come forth and learn to multiply: 

And every man that hath aught in his coffer. 

Let him appear, and wax a philosopher; 

Ascaunce* that craft is so light to lear.** *as if **learn 

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Nay, nay, God wot, all be he monk or frere. 

Priest or canon, or any other wight; 

Though he sit at his book both day and night; 

In learning of this *elvish nice* lore, * fantastic, foolish 

All is in vain; and pardie muche more. 

Is to learn a lew'd* man this subtlety; *ignorant 

Fie! speak not thereof, for it will not be. 

And *conne he letterure,* or conne he none, *if he knows learning* 

As in effect, he shall it find all one; 

For bothe two, by my salvation, 

Concluden in multiplication* 

Alike well, when they have all y-do; 

This is to say, they faile bothe two. 

Yet forgot I to make rehearsale 

Of waters corrosive, and of limaile,* 

And of bodies' mollification. 

And also of their induration, 

Oiles, ablutions, metal fusible. 

To tellen all, would passen any Bible 

That owhere* is; wherefore, as for the best, *anywhere 

Of all these names now will I me rest; 

For, as I trow, I have you told enough 

To raise a fiend, all look he ne'er so rough. 

*transmutation by alchemy 

*metal filings 

Ah! nay, let be; the philosopher's stone. 
Elixir call'd, we seeke fast each one; 
For had we him, then were we sicker* enow; 
But unto God of heaven I make avow,* 
For all our craft, when we have all y-do. 
And all our sleight, he will not come us to. 
He hath y-made us spende muche good. 
For sorrow of which almost we waxed wood,* 
But that good hope creeped in our heart. 
Supposing ever, though we sore smart. 




Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

To be relieved by him afterward. 

Such supposing and hope is sharp and hard. 

I warn you well it is to seeken ever. 

That future temps* hath made men dissever,** *time **part from 

In trust thereof, from all that ever they had. 

Yet of that art they cannot waxe sad,* *repentant 

For unto them it is a bitter sweet; 

So seemeth it; for had they but a sheet 

Which that they mighte wrap them in at night. 

And a bratt* to walk in by dayelight, *cloak< 10 > 

They would them sell, and spend it on this craft; 

They cannot stint,* until no thing be laft. *cease 

And evermore, wherever that they gon. 

Men may them knowe by smell of brimstone; 

For all the world they stinken as a goat; 

Their savour is so rammish and so hot. 

That though a man a mile from them be. 

The savour will infect him, truste me. 

Lo, thus by smelling and threadbare array. 

If that men list, this folk they knowe may. 

And if a man will ask them privily. 

Why they be clothed so unthriftily,* *shabbily 

They right anon will rownen* in his ear, *whisper 

And sayen, if that they espied were. 

Men would them slay, because of their science: 

Lo, thus these folkbetrayen innocence! 

Pass over this; I go my tale unto. 

Ere that the pot be on the fire y-do* 

Of metals, with a certain quantity 

My lord them tempers,* and no man but he 

(Now he is gone, I dare say boldely); 

For as men say, he can do craftily, 

Algate* I wot well he hath such a name. 

*adjusts the proportions 


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And yet full oft he runneth into blame; 

And know ye how? full oft it happ'neth so. 

The pot to-breaks, and farewell! all is go'.* 

These metals be of so great violence. 

Our walles may not make them resistence, 

*But iP they were wrought of lime and stone; 

They pierce so, that through the wall they gon; 

And some of them sink down into the ground 

(Thus have we lost by times many a pound). 

And some are scatter 'd all the floor about; 

Some leap into the roof withoute doubt. 

Though that the fiend not in our sight him show, 

I trowe that he be with us, that shrew;* 

In helle, where that he is lord and sire. 

Is there no more woe, rancour, nor ire. 

When that our pot is broke, as I have said. 

Every man chides, and holds him *evil apaid.^ 

Some said it was *long on* the fire-making; 

Some saide nay, it was on the blowing 

(Then was I fear'd, for that was mine office); 

"Straw!" quoth the third, "ye be *lewed and **nice, *ignorant **foolish 

It was not temper'd* as it ought to be." *mixed in due proportions 

"Nay," quoth the fourthe, "stint* and hearken me; *stop 

Because our fire was not y-made of beech. 

That is the cause, and other none, *so the'ch.* *so may I thrive* 

I cannot tell whereon it was along. 

But well I wot great strife is us among." 

"What?" quoth my lord, "there is no more to do'n. 

Of these perils I will beware eftsoon.* *another time 

I am right sicker* that the pot was crazed.** *sure **cracked 

Be as be may, be ye no thing amazed.* *confounded 

As usage is, let sweep the floor as swithe;* *quickly 

Pluck up your heartes and be glad and blithe." 

*impious wretch 

*because of <11>* 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

The mullok* on a heap y-sweeped was, *rubbish 

And on the floor y-cast a canevas, 

And all this mullok in a sieve y-throw, 

And sifted, and y-picked many a throw.* *time 

"Pardie," quoth one, "somewhat of our metal 

Yet is there here, though that we have not all. 

And though this thing *mishapped hath as now. 

Another time it may be well enow. 

We muste *put our good in adventure; * 

A merchant, pardie, may not aye endure, 

Truste me well, in his prosperity: 

Sometimes his good is drenched* in the sea. 

And sometimes comes it safe unto the land." 

"Peace," quoth my lord; "the next time I will fand* *endeavour 

To bring our craft *all in another plight,* *to a different conclusion* 

*has gone amiss 
at present* 
'risk our property* 

*drowned, sunk 

And but I do. Sirs, let me have the wite;* 

There was default in somewhat, well I wot." 

Another said, the fire was over hot. 

But be it hot or cold, I dare say this. 

That we concluden evermore amiss; 

We fail alway of that which we would have; 

And in our madness evermore we rave. 

And when we be together every one. 

Every man seemeth a Solomon. 

But all thing, which that shineth as the gold. 

It is not gold, as I have heard it told; 

Nor every apple that is fair at eye. 

It is not good, what so men clap* or cry. 

Right so, lo, fareth it amonges us. 

He that the wisest seemeth, by Jesus, 

Is most fool, when it cometh to the prefe;* 

And he that seemeth truest, is a thief 

That shall ye know, ere that I from you wend; 

By that I of my tale have made an end. 



*proof, test 

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There was a canon of religioun 
Amonges us, would infect* all a town. 
Though it as great were as was Nineveh, 
Rome, Alisandre,* Troy, or other three. 
His sleightes* and his infmite falseness 
There coulde no man writen, as I guess. 
Though that he mighte live a thousand year; 
In all this world of falseness n'is* his peer. 
For in his termes he will him so wind. 
And speak his wordes in so sly a kind. 
When he commune shall with any wight. 
That he will make him doat* anon aright. 
But it a fiende be, as himself is. 
Full many a man hath he beguil'd ere this. 
And will, if that he may live any while; 
And yet men go and ride many a mile 
Him for to seek, and have his acquaintance. 
Not knowing of his false governance.* 
And if you list to give me audience, 
I will it telle here in your presence. 
But, worshipful canons religious, 
Ne deeme not that I slander your house. 
Although that my tale of a canon be. 
Of every order some shrew is, pardie; 
And God forbid that all a company 
Should rue a singular* manne's folly. 
To slander you is no thing mine intent; 
But to correct that is amiss I meant. 
This tale was not only told for you. 
But eke for other more; ye wot well how 
That amonges Christe's apostles twelve 
There was no traitor but Judas himselve; 
Then why should all the remenant have blame. 


*cunning tricks 

*there is not 

*become foolishly 
fond of him* 

*deceitful conduct 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

That guiltless were? By you I say the same. 
Save only this, if ye will hearken me, 
If any Judas in your convent be. 
Remove him betimes, I you rede,* 
If shame or loss may causen any dread. 
And be no thing displeased, I you pray; 
But in this case hearken what I say. 


In London was a priest, an annualere, < 12> 

That therein dwelled hadde many a year. 

Which was so pleasant and so serviceable 

Unto the wife, where as he was at table. 

That she would suffer him no thing to pay 

For board nor clothing, went he ne'er so gay; 

And spending silver had he right enow; 

Thereof no force;* will proceed as now, *no matter 

And telle forth my tale of the canon. 

That brought this prieste to confusion. 

This false canon came upon a day 

Unto the prieste's chamber, where he lay. 

Beseeching him to lend him a certain 

Of gold, and he would quit it him again. 

"Lend me a mark," quoth he, "but dayes three. 

And at my day I will it quite thee. 

And if it so be that thou fmd me false. 

Another day hang me up by the halse."* *neck 

This priest him took a mark, and that as swithe,* *quickly 

And this canon him thanked often sithe,* *times 

And took his leave, and wente forth his way; 

And at the thirde day brought his money; 

And to the priest he took his gold again. 

Whereof this priest was wondrous glad and fain.* *pleased 

"Certes," quoth he, *"nothing annoyeth me* *I am not unwiling* 

To lend a man a noble, or two, or three. 

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Or what thing were in my possession. 

When he so true is of condition. 

That in no wise he breake will his day; 

To such a man I never can say nay." 

"What," quoth this canon, "should I be untrue? 

Nay, that were *thing y- fallen all of new!* *a new thing to happen* 

Truth is a thing that I will ever keep. 

Unto the day in which that I shall creep 

Into my grave; and elles God forbid; 

Believe this as sicker* as your creed. *sure 

God thank I, and in good time be it said. 

That there was never man yet *evil apaid* *displeased, dissatisfied* 

For gold nor silver that he to me lent. 

Nor ever falsehood in mine heart I meant. 

And Sir," quoth he, "now of my privity. 

Since ye so goodly have been unto me. 

And kithed* to me so great gentleness, *shown 

Somewhat, to quite with your kindeness, 

I will you shew, and if you list to lear,* *learn 

I will you teache plainly the mannere 

How I can worken in philosophy. 

Take good heed, ye shall well see *at eye* *with your own eye* 

That I will do a mas'try ere I go." 

"Yea," quoth the priest; "yea. Sir, and will ye so? 

Mary! thereof I pray you heartily." 

"At your commandement. Sir, truely," 

Quoth the canon, "and elles God forbid." 

Lo, how this thiefe could his service bede!* *offer 


Full sooth it is that such proffer 'd service 
Stinketh, as witnesse *these olde wise;* 
And that full soon I will it verify 
In this canon, root of all treachery. 
That evermore delight had and gladness 

*those wise folk of old* 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

(Such fiendly thoughtes *in his heart impress*) 

How Christe's people he may to mischief bring. 

God keep us from his false dissimuling! 

What wiste this priest with whom that he dealt? 

Nor of his harm coming he nothing felt. 

O sely* priest, O sely innocent! 

With covetise anon thou shalt be blent;* 

O graceless, full blind is thy conceit! 

For nothing art thou ware of the deceit 

Which that this fox y-shapen* hath to thee; 

His wily wrenches* thou not mayest flee. 

Wherefore, to go to the conclusioun 

That referreth to thy confusion. 

Unhappy man, anon I will me hie* 

To telle thine unwit* and thy folly. 

And eke the falseness of that other wretch. 

As farforth as that my conning* will stretch. 

This canon was my lord, ye woulde ween;* 

Sir Host, in faith, and by the heaven's queen. 

It was another canon, and not he. 

That can* an hundred fold more subtlety. 

He hath betrayed folkes many a time; 

Of his falseness it doleth* me to rhyme. 

And ever, when I speak of his falsehead. 

For shame of him my cheekes waxe red; 

Algates* they beginne for to glow. 

For redness have I none, right well I know. 

In my visage; for fumes diverse 

Of metals, which ye have me heard rehearse. 

Consumed have and wasted my redness. 

Now take heed of this canon's cursedness.* 

"Sir," quoth he to the priest, "let your man gon 
For quicksilver, that we it had anon; 

press into his heart* 

^blinded; beguiled 





*at least 


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And let him bringen ounces two or three; 

And when he comes, as faste shall ye see 

A wondrous thing, which ye saw ne'er ere this." 

"Sir," quoth the priest, "it shall be done, y-wis."* *certainly 

He bade his servant fetche him this thing. 

And he all ready was at his bidding. 

And went him forth, and came anon again 

With this quicksilver, shortly for to sayn; 

And took these ounces three to the canoun; 

And he them laide well and fair adown. 

And bade the servant coales for to bring. 

That he anon might go to his working. 

The coales right anon weren y-fet,* *fetched 

And this canon y-took a crosselet* *crucible 

Out of his bosom, and shew'd to the priest. 

"This instrument," quoth he, "which that thou seest. 

Take in thine hand, and put thyself therein 

Of this quicksilver an ounce, and here begin. 

In the name of Christ, to wax a philosopher. 

There be full few, which that I woulde proffer 

To shewe them thus much of my science; 

For here shall ye see by experience 

That this quicksilver I will mortify, < 13 > 

Right in your sight anon withoute lie. 

And make it as good silver, and as fme. 

As there is any in your purse, or mine. 

Or elleswhere; and make it malleable. 

And elles holde me false and unable 

Amonge folk for ever to appear. 

I have a powder here that cost me dear. 

Shall make all good, for it is cause of all 

My conning,* which that I you shewe shall. *knowledge 

Voide* your man, and let him be thereout; *send away 

And shut the doore, while we be about 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Our privity, that no man us espy, 
While that we work in this phiosophy " 
All, as he bade, fulfilled was in deed. 
This ilke servant right anon out yede,* 
And his master y-shut the door anon. 
And to their labour speedily they gon. 


This priest, at this cursed canon's bidding. 

Upon the fire anon he set this thing. 

And blew the fire, and busied him full fast. 

And this canon into the croslet cast 

A powder, I know not whereof it was 

Y-made, either of chalk, either of glass. 

Or somewhat elles, was not worth a fly 

To blinden* with this priest; and bade him hie 

The coales for to couchen* all above 

The croslet; "for, in token I thee love," 

Quoth this canon, "thine owen handes two 

Shall work all thing that here shall be do'." 

*"Grand mercy,"* quoth the priest, and was full glad. 

And couch'd the coales as the canon bade. 

And while he busy was, this fiendly wretch. 

This false canon (the foule fiend him fetch). 

Out of his bosom took a beechen coal. 

In which full subtifly was made a hole. 

And therein put was of silver limaile* 

An ounce, and stopped was withoute fail 

The hole with wax, to keep the limaile in. 

And understande, that this false gin* 

Was not made there, but it was made before; 

And other thinges I shall tell you more, 

Hereafterward, which that he with him brought; 

Ere he came there, him to beguile he thought. 

And so he did, ere that they *went atwin;* 

deceive **make haste 
lay in order 

*great thanks* 




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Till he had turned him, could he not blin.* *cease <14> 

It doleth* me, when that I of him speak; *paineth 

On his falsehood fain would I me awreak,* *revenge myself 
If I wist how, but he is here and there; 

He is so variant,* he abides nowhere. *changeable 

But take heed. Sirs, now for Godde's love. 

He took his coal, of which I spake above. 

And in his hand he bare it privily. 

And while the prieste couched busily 

The coales, as I tolde you ere this. 

This canon saide, "Friend, ye do amiss; 

This is not couched as it ought to be. 

But soon I shall amenden it," quoth he. 

"Now let me meddle therewith but a while. 

For of you have I pity, by Saint Gile. 

Ye be right hot, I see well how ye sweat; 

Have here a cloth, and wipe away the wet." 

And while that the prieste wip'd his face. 

This canon took his coal, — *with sorry grace,* — *evil fortune 

And layed it above on the midward attend him!* 

Of the croslet, and blew well afterward. 

Till that the coals beganne fast to brenn.* *burn 

"Now give us drinke," quoth this canon then, 

"And swithe* all shall be well, I undertake. *quickly 

Sitte we down, and let us merry make." 

And whenne that this canon's beechen coal 

Was burnt, all the limaile out of the hole 

Into the crosselet anon fell down; 

And so it muste needes, by reasoun. 

Since it above so *even couched* was; *exactly laid* 

But thereof wist the priest no thing, alas! 

He deemed all the coals alike good. 

For of the sleight he nothing understood. 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And when this alchemister saw his time, 

"Rise up, Sir Priest," quoth he, "and stand by me; 

And, for I wot well ingot* have ye none; *mould 

Go, walke forth, and bring me a chalk stone; 

For I will make it of the same shape 

That is an ingot, if I may have hap. 

Bring eke with you a bowl, or else a pan. 

Full of water, and ye shall well see than* *then 

How that our business shall *hap and preve* *succeed* 

And yet, for ye shall have no misbelieve* *mistrust 

Nor wrong conceit of me, in your absence, 

I wille not be out of your presence. 

But go with you, and come with you again." 

The chamber-doore, shortly for to sayn. 

They opened and shut, and went their way. 

And forth with them they carried the key; 

And came again without any delay. 

Why should I tarry all the longe day? 

He took the chalk, and shap'd it in the wise 

Of an ingot, as I shall you devise;* *describe 

I say, he took out of his owen sleeve 

A teine* of silver (evil may he cheve!**) *little piece **prosper 

Which that ne was but a just ounce of weight. 

And take heed now of his cursed sleight; 

He shap'd his ingot, in length and in brede* *breadth 

Of this teine, withouten any drede,* *doubt 

So slily, that the priest it not espied; 

And in his sleeve again he gan it hide; 

And from the fire he took up his mattere. 

And in th' ingot put it with merry cheer; 

And in the water-vessel he it cast. 

When that him list, and bade the priest as fast 

Look what there is; "Put in thine hand and grope; 

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There shalt thou fmde silver, as I hope." 
What, devil of helle! should it elles be? 
Shaving of silver, silver is, pardie. 
He put his hand in, and took up a teine 
Of silver fme; and glad in every vein 
Was this priest, when he saw that it was so. 
"Godde's blessing, and his mother's also. 
And alle hallows,* have ye. Sir Canon!" 
Saide this priest, "and I their malison* 
But, an'* ye vouchesafe to teache me 
This noble craft and this subtility, 
I will be yours in all that ever I may." 
Quoth the canon, "Yet will I make assay 
The second time, that ye may take heed. 
And be expert of this, and, in your need. 
Another day assay in mine absence 
This discipline, and this crafty science. 
Let take another ounce," quoth he tho,* 
"Of quicksilver, withoute wordes mo'. 
And do therewith as ye have done ere this 
With that other, which that now silver is. " 


The priest him busied, all that e'er he can. 
To do as this canon, this cursed man. 
Commanded him, and fast he blew the fire 
For to come to th' effect of his desire. 
And this canon right in the meanewhile 
All ready was this priest eft* to beguile, 
and, for a countenance,* in his hande bare 
An hollow sticke (take keep* and beware); 
Of silver limaile put was, as before 
Was in his coal, and stopped with wax well 
For to keep in his limaile every deal.* 
And while this priest was in his business. 





*p article 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

*provided **contrivance 



This canon with his sticke gan him dress* *2-pply 

To him anon, and his powder cast in, 

As he did erst (the devil out of his skin 

Him turn, I pray to God, for his falsehead. 

For he was ever false in thought and deed). 

And with his stick, above the crosselet. 

That was ordained* with that false get,*' 

He stirr'd the coales, till relente gan 

The wax against the fire, as every man. 

But he a fool be, knows well it must need. 

And all that in the sticke was out yede,* 

And in the croslet hastily* it fell. 

Now, goode Sirs, what will ye bet* than well? 

When that this priest was thus beguil'd again. 

Supposing naught but truthe, sooth to sayn. 

He was so glad, that I can not express 

In no mannere his mirth and his gladness; 

And to the canon he proffer'd eftsoon* *forthwith; again 

Body and good. "Yea," quoth the canon soon, 

"Though poor I be, crafty* thou shalt me fmd; *skilful 

I warn thee well, yet is there more behind. 

Is any copper here within?" said he. 

"Yea, Sir," the prieste said, "I trow there be." 

"Elles go buy us some, and that as swithe.* *swiftly 

Now, goode Sir, go forth thy way and hie* thee." *hasten 

He went his way, and with the copper came. 

And this canon it in his handes name,* *took <15> 

And of that copper weighed out an ounce. 

Too simple is my tongue to pronounce. 

As minister of my wit, the doubleness 

Of this canon, root of all cursedness. 

He friendly seem'd to them that knew him not; 

But he was fiendly, both in work and thought. 

It wearieth me to tell of his falseness; 

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And natheless yet will I it express. 

To that intent men may beware thereby. 

And for none other cause truely. 

He put this copper in the crosselet. 

And on the fire as swithe* he hath it set, *swiftly 

And cast in powder, and made the priest to blow. 

And in his working for to stoope low. 

As he did erst,* and all was but a jape;** *before **trick 

Right as him list the priest *he made his ape.* *befooled him* 

And afterward in the ingot he it cast. 

And in the pan he put it at the last 

Of water, and in he put his own hand; 

And in his sleeve, as ye beforehand 

Hearde me tell, he had a silver teine;* *small piece 

He silly took it out, this cursed heine* *wretch 

(Unweeting* this priest of his false craft), *unsuspecting 

And in the panne's bottom he it laft* *left 

And in the water rumbleth to and fro. 

And wondrous privily took up also 

The copper teine (not knowing thilke priest). 

And hid it, and him hente* by the breast, *took 

And to him spake, and thus said in his game; 

"Stoop now adown; by God, ye be to blame; 

Helpe me now, as I did you whilere;* *before 

Put in your hand, and looke what is there." 


This priest took up this silver teine anon; 

And thenne said the canon, "Let us gon. 

With these three teines which that we have wrought. 

To some goldsmith, and *weet if they be aught:* *find out if they are 

For, by my faith, I would not for my hood worth anything* 

*But iP they were silver fine and good, *unless 

And that as swithe* well proved shall it be." *quickly 

Unto the goldsmith with these teines three 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

They went anon, and put them in assay* *proof 

To fire and hammer; might no man say nay, 

But that they weren as they ought to be. 

This sotted* priest, who gladder was than he? *stupid, besotted 

Was never bird gladder against the day; 

Nor nightingale in the season of May 

Was never none, that better list to sing; 

Nor lady lustier in carolling. 

Or for to speak of love and womanhead; 

Nor knight in arms to do a hardy deed. 

To standen in grace of his lady dear. 

Than had this priest this crafte for to lear; 

And to the canon thus he spake and said; 

"For love of God, that for us alle died. 

And as I may deserve it unto you. 

What shall this receipt coste? tell me now" 

"By our Lady," quoth this canon, "it is dear. 

I warn you well, that, save I and a frere. 

In Engleland there can no man it make." 

*"No force,"* quoth he; "now. Sir, for Godde's sake, *no matter 

What shall I pay? telle me, I you pray." 

"Y-wis,"* quoth he, "it is full dear, I say. *certainly 

Sir, at one word, if that you list it have. 

Ye shall pay forty pound, so God me save; 

And n'ere* the friendship that ye did ere this *were it not for 

To me, ye shoulde paye more, y-wis." 

This priest the sum of forty pound anon 

Of nobles fet,* and took them every one *fetched 

To this canon, for this ilke receipt. 

All his working was but fraud and deceit. 

"Sir Priest," he said, "I keep* to have no los** *care **praise < 16> 

Of my craft, for I would it were kept close; 

And as ye love me, keep it secre: 

For if men knewen all my subtlety. 

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By God, they woulde have so great envy 

To me, because of my philosophy, 

I should be dead, there were no other way." 

"God it forbid," quoth the priest, "what ye say. 

Yet had I lever* spenden all the good *rather 

Which that I have (and elles were I wood*), *mad 

Than that ye shoulde fall in such mischief." 

"For your good will. Sir, have ye right good prefe,"* *results of your 

Quoth the canon; "and farewell, grand mercy." *experiments* 

He went his way, and never the priest him sey * *saw 

After that day; and when that this priest should 

Maken assay, at such time as he would. 

Of this receipt, farewell! it would not be. 

Lo, thus bejaped* and beguil'd was he; *tricked 

Thus made he his introduction 

To bringe folk to their destruction. 


Consider, Sirs, how that in each estate 
Betwixte men and gold there is debate. 
So farforth that *unnethes is there none.* 
This multiplying blint* so many a one. 
That in good faith I trowe that it be 
The cause greatest of such scarcity. 
These philosophers speak so mistily 
In this craft, that men cannot come thereby. 
For any wit that men have how-a-days. 
They may well chatter, as do these jays. 
And in their termes set their *lust and pain,* 
But to their purpose shall they ne'er attain. 
A man may lightly* learn, if he have aught. 
To multiply, and bring his good to naught. 
Lo, such a lucre* is in this lusty** game; 
A manne's mirth it will turn all to grame,* 
And empty also great and heavy purses. 

^scarcely is there any* 
*blinds, deceive 

^pleasure and exertion* 


*profit **pleasant 
*sorrow <17> 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And make folke for to purchase curses 

Of them that have thereto their good y-lent. 

Oh, fy for shame! they that have been brent,* *burnt 

Alas! can they not flee the fire's heat? 

Ye that it use, I rede* that ye it lete,** *advise **leave 

Lest ye lose all; for better than never is late; 

Never to thrive, were too long a date. 

Though ye prowl aye, ye shall it never fmd; 

Ye be as bold as is Bayard the blind. 

That blunders forth, and *peril casteth none;* *perceives no danger* 

He is as bold to run against a stone. 

As for to go beside it in the way: 

So fare ye that multiply, I say 

If that your eyen cannot see aright. 

Look that your minde lacke not his sight. 

For though you look never so broad, and stare. 

Ye shall not win a mite on that chaffare,* *traffic, commerce 

But wasten all that ye may *rape and renn.* *get by hook or crook* 

Withdraw the fire, lest it too faste brenn;* *burn 

Meddle no more with that art, I mean; 

For if ye do, your thrift* is gone full clean. *prosperity 

And right as swithe* I will you telle here *quickly 

What philosophers say in this mattere. 

Lo, thus saith Arnold of the newe town, <18> 
As his Rosary maketh mentioun. 
He saith right thus, withouten any lie; 
"There may no man mercury mortify, < 13 > 
But* it be with his brother's knowledging." 
Lo, how that he, which firste said this thing. 
Of philosophers father was, Hermes; < 19 > 
He saith, how that the dragon doubteless 
He dieth not, but if that he be slain 
With his brother. And this is for to sayn. 


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By the dragon. Mercury, and none other. 
He understood, and Brimstone by his brother. 
That out of Sol and Luna were y-draw.* 
"And therefore," said he, "take heed to my saw. 
Let no man busy him this art to seech,* 
*But iP that he th'intention and speech 
Of philosophers understande can; 
And if he do, he is a lewed* man. * 

*drawn, derived 

*study, explore 

gnorant, foolish 

For this science and this conning,"* quoth he, *knowledge 

"Is of the secret of secrets <20> pardie." 

Also there was a disciple of Plato, 

That on a time said his master to. 

As his book. Senior, <21 > will bear witness. 

And this was his demand in soothfastness: 

"Tell me the name of thilke* privy** stone." *that **secret 

And Plato answer 'd unto him anon; 

"Take the stone thatTitanos men name." 

"Which is that?" quoth he. "Magnesia is the same," 

Saide Plato. "Yea, Sir, and is it thus? 

This is ignotum per ignotius. <22> 

What is Magnesia, good Sir, I pray?" 

"It is a water that is made, I say. 

Of th' elementes foure," quoth Plato. 

"Tell me the roote, good Sir," quoth he tho,* *then 

"Of that water, if that it be your will." 

"Nay, nay," quoth Plato, "certain that I n'ilL* *will not 

The philosophers sworn were every one. 

That they should not discover it to none. 

Nor in no book it write in no mannere; 

For unto God it is so lefe* and dear, *precious 

That he will not that it discover 'd be. 

But where it liketh to his deity 

Man for to inspire, and eke for to defend'* *protect 

Whom that he liketh; lo, this is the end." 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Then thus conclude I, since that God of heaven 
Will not that these philosophers neven* 
How that a man shall come unto this stone, 
I rede* as for the best to let it gon. 
For whoso maketh God his adversary, 
As for to work any thing in contrary 
Of his will, certes never shall he thrive. 
Though that he multiply term of his live. <23> 
And there a point;* for ended is my tale. 
God send ev'ry good man *boot of his bale.* 


remedy for his sorrow* 


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^M^ ^Ha^tclbfe'^ ^a/e. 

The Prologue. 
WEET* ye not where there stands a little town. 
Which that y-called is Bob-up-and-down, < 1 > 
Under the Blee, in Canterbury way? 
There gan our Hoste for to jape and play. 
And saide, "Sirs, what? Dun is in the mire.<2> 
Is there no man, for prayer nor for hire. 
That will awaken our fellow behind? 
A thief him might full* rob and bind 
See how he nappeth, see, for cocke's bones. 
As he would falle from his horse at ones. 
Is that a Cook of London, with mischance? < 3 > 
Do* him come forth, he knoweth his penance; 
For he shall tell a tale, by my fay,* 
Although it be not worth a bottle hay. 





Awake, thou Cook," quoth he; "God give thee sorrow 

What aileth thee to sleepe *by the morrow?* *in the day time* 

Hast thou had fleas all night, or art drunk? 

Or had thou with some quean* all night y-swunk,** *whore **laboured 

So that thou mayest not hold up thine head?" 

The Cook, that was full pale and nothing red. 

Said to Host, "So God my soule bless. 

As there is fall'n on me such heaviness, 

I know not why, that me were lever* sleep, *rather 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Than the best gallon wine that is in Cheap." 
"Well," quoth the Manciple, "if it may do ease 
To thee. Sir Cook, and to no wight displease 
Which that here rideth in this company. 
And that our Host will of his courtesy, 
I will as now excuse thee of thy tale; 
For in good faith thy visage is full pale: 
Thine eyen daze,* soothly as me thinketh. 
And well I wot, thy breath full soure stinketh. 
That sheweth well thou art not well disposed; 
Of me certain thou shalt not be y-glosed.* 
See how he yawneth, lo, this drunken wight. 
As though he would us swallow anon right. 
Hold close thy mouth, man, by thy father's kin; 
The devil of helle set his foot therein! 
Thy cursed breath infecte will us all: 
Fy! stinking swine, fy! foul may thee befall. 
Ah! take heed. Sirs, of this lusty man. 
Now, sweete Sir, will ye joust at the fan?<4> 
Thereto, me thinketh, ye be well y-shape. 
I trow that ye have drunken wine of ape,<5> 
And that is when men playe with a straw." 

*are dim 


And with this speech the Cook waxed all wraw,' 

And on the Manciple he gan nod fast 

For lack of speech; and down his horse him cast. 

Where as he lay, till that men him up took. 

This was a fair chevachie* of a cook: 

Alas! that he had held him by his ladle! 

And ere that he again were in the saddle 

There was great shoving bothe to and fro 

To lift him up, and muche care and woe. 

So unwieldy was this silly paled ghost. 

And to the Manciple then spake our Host: 


cavalry expedition 

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"Because that drink hath domination 

Upon this man, by my salvation 

I trow he lewedly* will tell his tale. 

For were it wine, or old or moisty* ale. 

That he hath drunk, he speaketh in his nose. 

And sneezeth fast, and eke he hath the pose <6 

He also hath to do more than enough 

To keep him on his capel* out of the slough; 

And if he fall from off his capel eftsoon,* 

Then shall we alle have enough to do'n 

In lifting up his heavy drunken corse. 

Tell on thy tale, of him *make I no force.* 

But yet. Manciple, in faith thou art too nice* 

Thus openly to reprove him of his vice; 

Another day he will paraventure 

Reclaime thee, and bring thee to the lure; <7> 

I mean, he speake will of smalle things. 

As for to *pinchen at* thy reckonings, "" 

That were not honest, if it came to prefe."* 

Quoth the Manciple, "That were a great mischief; 

So might he lightly bring me in the snare. 

Yet had I lever* paye for the mare 

Which he rides on, than he should with me strive. 

I will not wrathe him, so may I thrive) 

That that I spake, I said it in my bourde.* 

And weet ye what? I have here in my gourd 

A draught of wine, yea, of a ripe grape. 

And right anon ye shall see a good jape.* 

This Cook shall drink thereof, if that I may; 

On pain of my life he will not say nay." 

And certainly, to tellen as it was. 

Of this vessel the cook drank fast (alas! 

What needed it? he drank enough beforn). 

And when he hadde *pouped in his horn,* 



I take no account* 

pick flaws in* 
*test, proof 






Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

To the Manciple he took the gourd again. 
And of that drink the Cook was wondrous fain, 
And thanked him in such wise as he could. 

Then gan our Host to laughe wondrous loud, 

And said, "I see well it is necessary 

Where that we go good drink with us to carry; 

For that will turne rancour and disease* *trouble, annoyance 

T'accord and love, and many a wrong appease. 

O Bacchus, Bacchus, blessed be thy name. 

That so canst turnen earnest into game! 

Worship and thank be to thy deity. 

Of that mattere ye get no more of me. 

Tell on thy tale. Manciple, I thee pray." 

"Well, Sir," quoth he, "now hearken what I say." 

The Tale. 

When Phoebus dwelled here in earth adown. 

As olde bookes make mentioun. 

He was the moste lusty* bacheler *pleasant 

Of all this world, and eke* the best archer. *also 

He slew Python the serpent, as he lay 

Sleeping against the sun upon a day; 

And many another noble worthy deed 

He with his bow wrought, as men maye read. 

Playen he could on every minstrelsy. 

And singe, that it was a melody 

To hearen of his cleare voice the soun'. 

Certes the king of Thebes, Amphioun, 

That with his singing walled the city. 

Could never singe half so well as he. 

Thereto he was the seemlieste man 

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That is, or was since that the world began; 
What needeth it his features to descrive? 
For in this world is none so fair alive. 
He was therewith full fill'd of gentleness. 
Of honour, and of perfect worthiness. 

This Phoebus, that was flower of bach'lery. 

As well in freedom* as in chivalry, *generosity 

For his disport, in sign eke of victory 

Of Python, so as telleth us the story. 

Was wont to bearen in his hand a bow. 

Now had this Phoebus in his house a crow. 

Which in a cage he foster 'd many a day. 

And taught it speaken, as men teach a jay. 

White was this crow, as is a snow-white swan. 

And counterfeit the speech of every man 

He coulde, when he shoulde tell a tale. 

Therewith in all this world no nightingale 

Ne coulde by an hundred thousand deal* *part 

Singe so wondrous merrily and well. 

Now had this Phoebus in his house a wife; 

Which that he loved more than his life. 

And night and day did ever his diligence 

Her for to please, and do her reverence: 

Save only, if that I the sooth shall sayn. 

Jealous he was, and would have kept her fain. 

For him were loth y-japed* for to be; *tricked, deceived 

And so is every wight in such degree; 

But all for nought, for it availeth nought. 

A good wife, that is clean of work and thought. 

Should not be kept in none await* certain: *observation 

And truely the labour is in vain 

To keep a shrewe,* for it will not be. *ill-disposed woman 

This hold I for a very nicety,* *sheer folly 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

To spille* labour for to keepe wives; 


*what thy heart prompts 

Thus writen olde clerkes in their lives. 

But now to purpose, as I first began. 

This worthy Phoebus did all that he can 

To please her, weening, through such pleasance. 

And for his manhood and his governance. 

That no man should have put him from her grace; 

But, God it wot, there may no man embrace 

As to distrain* a thing, which that nature *succeed in constraining 

Hath naturally set in a creature. 

Take any bird, and put it in a cage. 

And do all thine intent, and thy corage,* 

To foster it tenderly with meat and drink 

Of alle dainties that thou canst bethink. 

And keep it all so cleanly as thou may; 

Although the cage of gold be never so gay. 

Yet had this bird, by twenty thousand fold. 

Lever* in a forest, both wild and cold. 

Go eate wormes, and such wretchedness. 

For ever this bird will do his business 

T'escape out of his cage when that he may: 

His liberty the bird desireth aye. <2> 

Let take a cat, and foster her with milk 

And tender flesh, and make her couch of silk. 

And let her see a mouse go by the wall. 

Anon she weiveth* milk, and flesh, and all. 

And every dainty that is in that house. 

Such appetite hath she to eat the mouse. 

Lo, here hath kind* her domination. 

And appetite flemeth* discretion. 

A she-wolf hath also a villain's kind 

The lewedeste wolf that she may fmd. 

Or least of reputation, will she take 



*drives out 

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In time when *her lust* to have a make.* *she desires *mate 

All these examples speak I by* these men *with reference to 

That be untrue, and nothing by women. 

For men have ever a lik'rous appetite 

On lower things to perform their delight 

Than on their wives, be they never so fair. 

Never so true, nor so debonair.* *gentle, mild 

Flesh is so newefangled, *with mischance,* *ill luck to it* 

That we can in no thinge have pleasance 

That *souneth unto* virtue any while. *accords with 


This Phoebus, which that thought upon no guile. 

Deceived was for all his jollity; 

For under him another hadde she, 

A man of little reputation. 

Nought worth to Phoebus in comparison. 

The more harm is; it happens often so. 

Of which there cometh muche harm and woe. 

And so befell, when Phoebus was absent. 

His wife anon hath for her leman* sent. *unlawful lover 

Her leman! certes that is a knavish speech. 

Forgive it me, and that I you beseech. 

The wise Plato saith, as ye may read. 

The word must needs accorde with the deed; 

If men shall telle properly a thing. 

The word must cousin be to the working. 

I am a boistous* man, right thus I say. 

There is no difference truely 

Betwixt a wife that is of high degree 

(If of her body dishonest she be). 

And any poore wench, other than this 

(If it so be they worke both amiss). 

But, for* the gentle is in estate above, *because 

She shall be call'd his lady and his love; 

^rough-spoken, downright 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

And, for that other is a poor woman, 

She shall be call'd his wench and his leman: 

And God it wot, mine owen deare brother. 

Men lay the one as low as lies the other. 

Right so betwixt a *titleless tyrant* *usurper* 

And an outlaw, or else a thief errant, *wandering 

The same I say, there is no difference 

(To Alexander told was this sentence). 

But, for the tyrant is of greater might 

By force of meinie* for to slay downright, *followers 

And burn both house and home, and make all plain,* *level 

Lo, therefore is he call'd a capitain; 

And, for the outlaw hath but small meinie. 

And may not do so great an harm as he. 

Nor bring a country to so great mischief. 

Men calle him an outlaw or a thief 

But, for I am a man not textuel, *learned in texts 

I will not tell of texts never a deal;* *whit 

I will go to my tale, as I began. 

When Phoebus' wife had sent for her leman. 

Anon they wroughten all their *lust volage.* *light or rash pleasure* 

This white crow, that hung aye in the cage. 

Beheld their work, and said never a word; 

And when that home was come Phoebus the lord. 

This crowe sung, "Cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo!" 

"What? bird," quoth Phoebus, "what song sing'st thou now? 

Wert thou not wont so merrily to sing. 

That to my heart it was a rejoicing 

To hear thy voice? alas! what song is this?" 

"By God," quoth he, "I singe not amiss. 

Phoebus," quoth he, "for all thy worthiness. 

For all thy beauty, and all thy gentleness. 

For all thy song, and all thy minstrelsy. 

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*For all thy waiting, bleared is thine eye* *despite all thy watching. 

With one of little reputation, thou art befooled* 

Not worth to thee, as in comparison. 

The mountance* of a gnat, so may I thrive; *value 

For on thy bed thy wife I saw him swive." 

What will ye more? the crow anon him told. 

By sade* tokens, and by wordes bold, *grave, trustworthy 

How that his wife had done her lechery. 

To his great shame and his great villainy; 

And told him oft, he saw it with his eyen. 

This Phoebus gan awayward for to wrien;* *turn aside 

Him thought his woeful hearte burst in two. 

His bow he bent, and set therein a flo,* *arrow 

And in his ire he hath his wife slain; 

This is th' effect, there is no more to sayn. 

For sorrow of which he brake his minstrelsy. 

Both harp and lute, gitern* and psaltery; *guitar 

And eke he brake his arrows and his bow; 

And after that thus spake he to the crow. 


"Traitor," quoth he, "with tongue of scorpion. 

Thou hast me brought to my confusion; 

Alas that I was wrought!* why n'ere** I dead? 

O deare wife, O gem of lustihead,* 

That wert to me so sad,* and eke so true. 

Now liest thou dead, with face pale of hue. 

Full guilteless, that durst I swear y-wis!* 

O rakel* hand, to do so foul amiss 

O troubled wit, O ire reckeless. 

That unadvised smit'st the guilteless! 

O wantrust,* full of false suspicion! 

Where was thy wit and thy discretion? 

O! every man beware of rakelness,* 

Nor trow* no thing withoute strong witness. 

*made **was not 

*rash, hasty 

*distrust <3> 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

Smite not too soon, ere that ye weete* why, *know 

And *be advised* well and sickerly** *consider* *surely 

Ere ye *do any execution *take any action 

Upon your ire* for suspicion. upon your anger* 

Alas! a thousand folk hath rakel ire 

Foully fordone, and brought them in the mire. 

Alas! for sorrow I will myself slee* *slay 

And to the crow, "O false thief," said he, 

"I will thee quite anon thy false tale. 

Thou sung whilom* like any nightingale, *once on a time 

Now shalt thou, false thief, thy song foregon,* *lose 

And eke thy white feathers every one. 

Nor ever in all thy life shalt thou speak; 

Thus shall men on a traitor be awreak. *revenged 

Thou and thine offspring ever shall be blake,* *black 

Nor ever sweete noise shall ye make. 

But ever cry against* tempest and rain, *before, in warning of 

In token that through thee my wife is slain." 

And to the crow he start,* and that anon, *sprang 

And pull'd his white feathers every one. 

And made him black, and reft him all his song. 

And eke his speech, and out at door him flung 

Unto the devil, *which I him betake;* *to whom I commend him* 

And for this cause be all crowes blake. 

Lordings, by this ensample, I you pray. 

Beware, and take keep* what that ye say; *heed 

Nor telle never man in all your life 

How that another man hath dight his wife; 

He will you hate mortally certain. 

Dan Solomon, as wise clerkes sayn, 

Teacheth a man to keep his tongue well; 

But, as I said, I am not textuel. 

But natheless thus taughte me my dame; 

"My son, think on the crow, in Godde's name. 

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*defend by crossing 

*because **consider 



except when you do 
your best effort* 

My son, keep well thy tongue, and keep thy friend; 

A wicked tongue is worse than is a fiend: 

My sone, from a fiend men may them bless.* 

My son, God of his endeless goodness 

Walled a tongue with teeth, and lippes eke. 

For* man should him advise,** what he speak. 

My son, full often for too muche speech 

Hath many a man been spilt,* as clerkes teach; 

But for a little speech advisedly 

Is no man shent,* to speak generally. 

My son, thy tongue shouldest thou restrain 

At alle time, *but when thou dost thy pain* 

To speak of God in honour and prayere. 

The firste virtue, son, if thou wilt lear,* 

Is to restrain and keepe well thy tongue; <4> 

Thus learne children, when that they be young. 

My son, of muche speaking evil advis'd. 

Where lesse speaking had enough suffic'd, 

Cometh much harm; thus was me told and taught; 

In muche speeche sinne wanteth not. 

Wost* thou whereof a rakel** tongue serveth? 

Right as a sword forcutteth and forcarveth 

An arm in two, my deare son, right so 

A tongue cutteth friendship all in two. 

A jangler* is to God abominable. 

Read Solomon, so wise and honourable; 

Read David in his Psalms, and read Senec'. 

My son, speak not, but with thine head thou beck,* 

Dissimule as thou wert deaf, if that thou hear 

A jangler speak of perilous mattere. 

The Fleming saith, and learn *if that thee lest,* **if it please thee* 

That little jangling causeth muche rest. 

My son, if thou no wicked word hast said, 

*Thee thar not dreade for to be bewray 'd;* *thou hast no need to 

*knowest **hasty 

prating man 

*beckon, nod 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

But he that hath missaid, I dare well sayn, fear to be betrayed* 

He may by no way call his word again. 

Thing that is said is said, and forth it go'th, <5> 

Though him repent, or be he ne'er so loth; 

He is his thrall,* to whom that he hath said 

A tale, *of which he is now evil apaid.* 

My son, beware, and be no author new 

Of tidings, whether they be false or true; <6> 

Whereso thou come, amonges high or low. 

Keep well thy tongue, and think upon the crow." 

Which he now regrets* 


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The Prologue. 

By that the Manciple his tale had ended. 

The sunne from the south line was descended 

So lowe, that it was not to my sight 

Degrees nine-and-twenty as in height. 

Four of the clock it was then, as I guess. 

For eleven foot, a little more or less. 

My shadow was at thilke time, as there. 

Of such feet as my lengthe parted were 

In six feet equal of proportion. 

Therewith the moone's exaltation,* 

*In meane* Libra, gan alway ascend. 

As we were ent'ring at a thorpe's* end. 

For which our Host, as he was wont to gie,* 

As in this case, our jolly company. 

Said in this wise; "Lordings every one. 

Now lacketh us no more tales than one. 

Fulfill'd is my sentence and my decree; 

I trow that we have heard of each degree.* 

Almost fulfilled is mine ordinance; 

I pray to God so give him right good chance 

That telleth us this tale lustily. 

Sir Priest," quoth he, "art thou a vicary?* 

Or art thou a Parson? say sooth by thy fay* 

*in the middle oP 


from each class or rank 
in the company 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

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Be what thou be, breake thou not our play; 

For every man, save thou, hath told his tale. 

Unbuckle, and shew us what is in thy mail.* *wallet 

For truely me thinketh by thy cheer 

Thou shouldest knit up well a great mattere. 

Tell us a fable anon, for cocke's bones." 

This Parson him answered all at ones; 

"Thou gettest fable none y-told for me. 

For Paul, that writeth unto Timothy, 

Reproveth them that *weive soothfastness,* *forsake truth* 

And telle fables, and such wretchedness. 

Why should I sowe drafP out of my fist, *chaff, refuse 

When I may sowe wheat, if that me list? 

For which I say, if that you list to hear 

Morality and virtuous mattere. 

And then that ye will give me audience, 

I would full fain at Christe's reverence 

Do you pleasance lawful, as I can. 

But, truste well, I am a southern man, 

I cannot gest,* rom, ram, ruf, < 1 > by my letter; 

And, God wot, rhyme hold I but little better. 

And therefore if you list, I will not glose,* 

I will you tell a little tale in prose. 

To knit up all this feast, and make an end. 

And Jesus for his grace wit me send 

To shewe you the way, in this voyage. 

Of thilke perfect glorious pilgrimage, <2> 

That hight Jerusalem celestial. 

And if ye vouchesafe, anon I shall 

Begin upon my tale, for which I pray 

Tell your advice,* I can no better say. *opinion 

But natheless this meditation 

I put it aye under correction 

*relate stories 

mmce matters 

Of clerkes,* for I am not textuel; 
I take but the sentence,* trust me well. 
Therefore I make a protestation. 
That I will stande to correction." 
Upon this word we have assented soon; 
For, as us seemed, it was *for to do'n,* 
To enden in some virtuous sentence,* 
And for to give him space and audience; 
And bade our Host he shoulde to him say 
That alle we to tell his tale him pray. 
Our Hoste had. the wordes for us all: 
"Sir Priest," quoth he, "now faire you befall; 
Say what you list, and we shall gladly hear." 
And with that word he said in this mannere; 
"Telle," quoth he, "your meditatioun. 
But hasten you, the sunne will adown. 
Be fructuous,* and that in little space; 
And to do well God sende you his grace." 

*meaning, sense 

^a thing worth doing* 

""fruitful; profitable 

The Tale. 

[The Parson begins his "little treatise" -(which, if given at 
length, would extend to about thirty of these pages, and which 
cannot by any stretch of courtesy or fancy be said to merit the 
title of a "Tale") in these words: — ] 

Our sweet Lord God of Heaven, that no man will perish, but 
will that we come all to the knowledge of him, and to the 
blissful life that is perdurable [everlasting], admonishes us by 
the prophet Jeremiah, that saith in this wise: "Stand upon the 
ways, and see and ask of old paths, that is to say, of old 
sentences, which is the good way, and walk in that way, and ye 
shall find refreshing for your souls," <2> &c. Many be the 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

spiritual ways that lead folk to our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the 
reign of glory; of which ways there is a full noble way, and full 
convenable, which may not fail to man nor to woman, that 
through sin hath misgone from the right way of Jerusalem 
celestial; and this way is called penitence. Of which men should 
gladly hearken and inquire with all their hearts, to wit what is 
penitence, and whence it is called penitence, and in what 
manner, and in how many manners, be the actions or workings 
of penitence, and how many species there be of penitences, and 
what things appertain and behove to penitence, and what things 
disturb penitence. 

[Penitence is described, on the authority of Saints Ambrose, 
Isidore, and Gregory, as the bewailing of sin that has been 
wrought, with the purpose never again to do that thing, or any 
other thing which a man should bewail; for weeping and not 
ceasing to do the sin will not avail — though it is to be hoped 
that after every time that a man falls, be it ever so often, he may 
fmd grace to arise through penitence. And repentant folk that 
leave their sin ere sin leave them, are accounted by Holy Church 
sure of their salvation, even though the repentance be at the last 
hour. There are three actions of penitence; that a man be 
baptized after he has sinned; that he do no deadly sin after 
receiving baptism; and that he fall into no venial sins from day 
to day. "Thereof saith St Augustine, that penitence of good and 
humble folk is the penitence of every day. "The species of 
penitence are three: solemn, when a man is openly expelled 
from Holy Church in Lent, or is compelled by Holy Church to 
do open penance for an open sin openly talked of in the 
country; common penance, enjoined by priests in certain cases, 
as to go on pilgrimage naked or barefoot; and privy penance, 
which men do daily for private sins, of which they confess 
privately and receive private penance. To very perfect penitence 
are behoveful and necessary three things: contrition of heart. 

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confession of mouth, and satisfaction; which are fruitful 
penitence against delight in thinking, reckless speech, and 
wicked sinful works. 

Penitence may be likened to a tree, having its root in contrition, 
biding itself in the heart as a tree-root does in the earth; out of 
this root springs a stalk, that bears branches and leaves of 
confession, and fruit of satisfaction. Of this root also springs a 
seed of grace, which is mother of all security, and this seed is 
eager and hot; and the grace of this seed springs of God, 
through remembrance on the day of judgment and on the pains 
of hell. The heat of this seed is the love of God, and the desire 
of everlasting joy; and this heat draws the heart of man to God, 
and makes him hate his sin. Penance is the tree of life to them 
that receive it. In penance or contrition man shall understand 
four things: what is contrition; what are the causes that move a 
man to contrition; how he should be contrite; and what 
contrition availeth to the soul. Contrition is the heavy and 
grievous sorrow that a man receiveth in his heart for his sins, 
with earnest purpose to confess and do penance, and never 
more to sin. Six causes ought to move a man to contrition: 1. 
He should remember him of his sins; 2. He should reflect that 
sin putteth a man in great thraldom, and all the greater the 
higher is the estate from which he falls; 3. He should dread the 
day of doom and the horrible pains of hell; 4. The sorrowful 
remembrance of the good deeds that man hath omitted to do 
here on earth, and also the good that he hath lost, ought to 
make him have contrition; 5. So also ought the remembrance of 
the passion that our Lord Jesus Christ suffered for our sins; 6. 
And so ought the hope of three things, that is to say, 
forgiveness of sin, the gift of grace to do well, and the glory of 
heaven with which God shall reward man for his good deeds. — 
All these points the Parson illustrates and enforces at length; 
waxing especially eloquent under the third head, and plainly 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

setting forth the sternly realistic notions regarding future 
punishments that were entertained in the time of Chaucer:-] <3> 

Certes, all the sorrow that a man might make from the 
beginning of the world, is but a little thing, at retard of [in 
comparison with] the sorrow of hell. The cause why that Job 
calleth hell the land of darkness; <4> understand, that he calleth 
it land or earth, for it is stable and never shall fail, and dark, for 
he that is in hell hath default [is devoid] of light natural; for 
certes the dark light, that shall come out of the fire that ever 
shall burn, shall turn them all to pain that be in hell, for it 
sheweth them the horrible devils that them torment. Covered 
with the darkness of death; that is to say, that he that is in hell 
shall have default of the sight of God; for certes the sight of 
God is the life perdurable [everlasting]. The darkness of death, 
be the sins that the wretched man hath done, which that disturb 
[prevent] him to see the face of God, right as a dark cloud doth 
between us and the sun. Land of misease, because there be three 
manner of defaults against three things that folk of this world 
have in this present life; that is to say, honours, delights, and 
riches. Against honour have they in hell shame and confusion: 
for well ye wot, that men call honour the reverence that man 
doth to man; but in hell is no honour nor reverence; for certes 
no more reverence shall be done there to a king than to a knave 
[servant]. For which God saith by the prophet Jeremiah; "The 
folk that me despise shall be in despite." Honour is also called 
great lordship. There shall no wight serve other, but of harm 
and torment. Honour is also called great dignity and highness; 
but in hell shall they be all fortrodden [trampled under foot] of 
devils. As God saith, "The horrible devils shall go and come 
upon the heads of damned folk;" and this is, forasmuch as the 
higher that they were in this present life, the more shall they be 
abated [abased] and defouled in hell. Against the riches of this 
world shall they have misease [trouble, torment] of poverty, and 

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this poverty shall be in four things: in default [want] of treasure; 
of which David saith, "The rich folk that embraced and oned 
[united] all their heart to treasure of this world, shall sleep in the 
sleeping of death, and nothing shall they fmd in their hands of 
all their treasure." And moreover, the misease of hell shall be in 
default of meat and drink. For God saith thus by Moses, "They 
shall be wasted with hunger, and the birds of hell shall devour 
them with bitter death, and the gall of the dragon shall be their 
drink, and the venom of the dragon their morsels." And 
furthermore, their misease shall be in default of clothing, for 
they shall be naked in body, as of clothing, save the fire in 
which they burn, and other filths; and naked shall they be in 
soul, of all manner virtues, which that is the clothing of the soul. 
Where be then the gay robes, and the soft sheets, and the fine 
shirts? Lo, what saith of them the prophet Isaiah, that under 
them shall be strewed moths, and their covertures shall be of 
worms of hell. And furthermore, their misease shall be in default 
of friends, for he is not poor that hath good friends: but there is 
no friend; for neither God nor any good creature shall be friend 
to them, and evereach of them shall hate other with deadly hate. 
The Sons and the daughters shall rebel against father and 
mother, and kindred against kindred, and chide and despise each 
other, both day and night, as God saith by the prophet Micah. 
And the loving children, that whom loved so fleshly each other, 
would each of them eat the other if they might. For how should 
they love together in the pains of hell, when they hated each 
other in the prosperity of this life? For trust well, their fleshly 
love was deadly hate; as saith the prophet David; "Whoso 
loveth wickedness, he hateth his own soul:" and whoso hateth 
his own soul, certes he may love none other wight in no 
manner: and therefore in hell is no solace nor no friendship, but 
ever the more kindreds that be in hell, the more cursing, the 
more chiding, and the more deadly hate there is among them. 
And furtherover, they shall have default of all manner delights; 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

for certes delights be after the appetites of the five wits 
[senses]; as sight, hearing, smelling, savouring [tasting], and 
touching. But in hell their sight shall be full of darkness and of 
smoke, and their eyes full of tears; and their hearing full of 
waimenting [lamenting] andgrinting [gnashing] of teeth, as 
saith Jesus Christ; their nostrils shall be full of stinking; and, as 
saith Isaiah the prophet, their savouring [tasting] shall be full of 
bitter gall; and touching of all their body shall be covered with 
fire that never shall quench, and with worms that never shall 
die, as God saith by the mouth of Isaiah. And forasmuch as they 
shall not ween that they may die for pain, and by death flee from 
pain, that may they understand in the word of Job, that saith, 
"There is the shadow of death." Certes a shadow hath the 
likeness of the thing of which it is shadowed, but the shadow is 
not the same thing of which it is shadowed: right so fareth the 
pain of hell; it is like death, for the horrible anguish; and why? 
for it paineth them ever as though they should die anon; but 
certes they shall not die. For, as saith Saint Gregory, "To 
wretched caitiffs shall be given death without death, and end 
without end, and default without failing; for their death shall 
always live, and their end shall evermore begin, and their default 
shall never fail." And therefore saith Saint John the Evangelist, 
"They shall follow death, and they shall not find him, and they 
shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them." And eke Job 
saith, that in hell is no order of rule. And albeit that God hath 
created all things in right order, and nothing without order, but 
all things be ordered and numbered, yet nevertheless they that 
be damned be not in order, nor hold no order. For the earth 
shall bear them no fruit (for, as the prophet David saith, "God 
shall destroy the fruit of the earth, as for them"); nor water shall 
give them no moisture, nor the air no refreshing, nor the fire no 
light. For as saith Saint Basil, "The burning of the fire of this 
world shall God give in hell to them that be damned, but the 
light and the clearness shall be given in heaven to his children; 

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right as the good man giveth flesh to his children, and bones to 
his hounds." And for they shall have no hope to escape, saith 
Job at last, that there shall horror and grisly dread dwell without 
end. Horror is always dread of harm that is to come, and this 
dread shall ever dwell in the hearts of them that be damned. 
And therefore have they lost all their hope for seven causes. 
First, for God that is their judge shall be without mercy to them; 
nor they may not please him; nor none of his hallows [saints]; 
nor they may give nothing for their ransom; nor they have no 
voice to speak to him; nor they may not flee from pain; nor they 
have no goodness in them that they may shew to deliver them 
from pain. 

[Under the fourth head, of good works, the Parson says: — ] 

The courteous Lord Jesus Christ will that no good work be lost, 
for in somewhat it shall avail. But forasmuch as the good works 
that men do while they be in good life be all amortised [killed, 
deadened] by sin following, and also since all the good works 
that men do while they be in deadly sin be utterly dead, as for to 
have the life perdurable [everlasting], well may that man that no 
good works doth, sing that new French song, J'ai tout perdu — 
mon temps et mon labour <5>. For certes, sin bereaveth a man 
both the goodness of nature, and eke the goodness of grace. 
For soothly the grace of the Holy Ghost fareth like fire, that 
may not be idle; for fire faileth anon as it forleteth [leaveth] its 
working, and right so grace faileth anon as it forleteth its 
working. Then loseth the sinful man the goodness of glory, that 
only is to good men that labour and work. Well may he be sorry 
then, that oweth all his life to God, as long as he hath lived, and 
also as long as he shall live, that no goodness hath to pay with 
his debt to God, to whom he oweth all his life: for trust well he 
shall give account, as saith Saint Bernard, of all the goods that 
have been given him in his present life, and how he hath them 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

dispended, insomuch that there shall not perish an hair of his 
head, nor a moment of an hour shall not perish of his time, that 
he shall not give thereof a reckoning. 

[Having treated of the causes, the Parson comes to the manner, 
of contrition — which should be universal and total, not merely 
of outward deeds of sin, but also of wicked delights and 
thoughts and words; "for certes Almighty God is all good, and 
therefore either he forgiveth all, or else right naught." Further, 
contrition should be "wonder sorrowful and anguishous," and 
also continual, with steadfast purpose of confession and 
amendment. Lastly, of what contrition availeth, the Parson says, 
that sometimes it delivereth man from sin; that without it neither 
confession nor satisfaction is of any worth; that it "destroyeth 
the prison of hell, and maketh weak and feeble all the strengths 
of the devils, and restoreth the gifts of the Holy Ghost and of all 
good virtues, and cleanseth the soul of sin, and delivereth it 
from the pain of hell, and from the company of the devil, and 
from the servage [slavery] of sin, and restoreth it to all goods 
spiritual, and to the company and communion of Holy Church." 
He who should set his intent to these things, would no longer be 
inclined to sin, but would give his heart and body to the service 
of Jesus Christ, and thereof do him homage. "For, certes, our 
Lord Jesus Christ hath spared us so benignly in our follies, that 
if he had not pity on man's soul, a sorry song might we all sing." 

The Second Part of the Parson's Tale or Treatise opens with an 
explanation of what is confession — which is termed "the 
second part of penitence, that is, sign of contrition;" whether it 
ought needs be done or not; and what things be convenable to 
true confession. Confession is true shewing of sins to the priest, 
without excusing, hiding, or forwrapping [disguising] of 
anything, and without vaunting of good works. "Also, it is 
necessary to understand whence that sins spring, and how they 

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increase, and which they be." From Adam we took original sin; 
"from him fleshly descended be we all, and engendered of vile 
and corrupt matter;" and the penalty of Adam's transgression 
dwelleth with us as to temptation, which penalty is called 
concupiscence. "This concupiscence, when it is wrongfully 
disposed or ordained in a man, it maketh him covet, by covetise 
of flesh, fleshly sin by sight of his eyes, as to earthly things, and 
also covetise of highness by pride of heart."The Parson 
proceeds to shew how man is tempted in his flesh to sin; how, 
after his natural concupiscence, comes suggestion of the devil, 
that is to say the devil's bellows, with which he bloweth in man 
the fire of con cupiscence; and how man then bethinketh him 
whether he will do or no the thing to which he is tempted. If he 
flame up into pleasure at the thought, and give way, then is he 
all dead in soul; "and thus is sin accomplished, by temptation, by 
delight, and by consenting; and then is the sin actual." Sin is 
either venial, or deadly; deadly, when a man loves any creature 
more than Jesus Christ our Creator, venial, if he love Jesus 
Christ less than he ought. Venial sins diminish man's love to 
God more and more, and may in this wise skip into deadly sin; 
for many small make a great. "And hearken this example: A 
great wave of the sea cometh sometimes with so great a 
violence, that it drencheth [causes to sink] the ship: and the 
same harm do sometimes the small drops, of water that enter 
through a little crevice in the thurrok [hold, bilge], and in the 
bottom of the ship, if men be so negligent that they discharge 
them not betimes. And therefore, although there be difference 
betwixt these two causes of drenching, algates [in any case] the 
ship is dreint [sunk]. Right so fareth it sometimes of deadly sin," 
and of venial sins when they multiply in a man so greatly as to 
make him love worldly things more than God. The Parson then 
enumerates specially a number of sins which many a man 
peradventure deems no sins, and confesses them not, and yet 
nevertheless they are truly sins: — ] 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

This is to say, at every time that a man eateth and drinketh more 
than sufficeth to the sustenance of his body, in certain he doth 
sin; eke when he speaketh more than it needeth, he doth sin; eke 
when he heareth not benignly the complaint of the poor; eke 
when he is in health of body, and will not fast when other folk 
fast, without cause reasonable; eke when he sleepeth more than 
needeth, or when he cometh by that occasion too late to church, 
or to other works of charity; eke when he useth his wife without 
sovereign desire of engendrure, to the honour of God, or for the 
intent to yield his wife his debt of his body; eke when he will not 
visit the sick, or the prisoner, if he may; eke if he love wife, or 
child, or other worldly thing, more than reason requireth; eke if 
he flatter or blandish more than he ought for any necessity; eke 
if he minish or withdraw the alms of the poor; eke if he apparail 
[prepare] his meat more deliciously than need is, or eat it too 
hastily by likerousness [gluttony]; eke if he talk vanities in the 
church, or at God's service, or that he be a talker of idle words 
of folly or villainy, for he shall yield account of them at the day 
of doom; eke when he behighteth [promiseth] or assureth to do 
things that he may not perform; eke when that by lightness of 
folly he missayeth or scorneth his neighbour; eke when he hath 
any wicked suspicion of thing, that he wot of it no 
soothfastness: these things, and more without number, be sins, 
as saith Saint Augustine. 

[No earthly man may eschew all venial sins; yet may he refrain 
him, by the burning love that he hath to our Lord Jesus Christ, 
and by prayer and confession, and other good works, so that it 
shall but little grieve. "Furthermore, men may also refrain and 
put away venial sin, by receiving worthily the precious body of 
Jesus Christ; by receiving eke of holy water; by alms-deed; by 
general confession of Confiteor at mass, and at prime, and at 
compline [evening service]; and by blessing of bishops and 

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priests, and by other good works." The Parson then proceeds to 
weightier matters: — ] 

Now it is behovely [profitable, necessary] to tell which be 
deadly sins, that is to say, chieftains of sins; forasmuch as all 
they run in one leash, but in diverse manners. Now be they 
called chieftains, forasmuch as they be chief, and of them spring 
all other sins. The root of these sins, then, is pride, the general 
root of all harms. For of this root spring certain branches: as ire, 
envy, accidie <6> or sloth, avarice or covetousness (to common 
understanding), gluttony, and lechery: and each of these sins 
hath his branches and his twigs, as shall be declared in their 
chapters following. And though so be, that no man can tell 
utterly the number of the twigs, and of the harms that come of 
pride, yet will I shew a part of them, as ye shall understand. 
There is inobedience, vaunting, hypocrisy, despite, arrogance, 
impudence, swelling of hearte, insolence, elation, impatience, 
strife, contumacy, presumption, irreverence, pertinacity, vain- 
glory and many another twig that I cannot tell nor declare. . . .] 

And yet [moreover] there is a privy species of pride that waiteth 
first to be saluted ere he will salute, all [although] be he less 
worthy than that other is; and eke he waiteth [expecteth] or 
desireth to sit or to go above him in the way, or kiss the pax, 
<7> or be incensed, or go to offering before his neighbour, and 
such semblable [like] things, against his duty peradventure, but 
that he hath his heart and his intent in such a proud desire to be 
magnified and honoured before the people. Now be there two 
manner of prides; the one of them is within the heart of a man, 
and the other is without. Of which soothly these foresaid things, 
and more than I have said, appertain to pride that is within the 
heart of a man and there be other species of pride that be 
without: but nevertheless, the one of these species of pride is 
sign of the other, right as the gay levesell [bush] at the tavern is 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

sign of the wine that is in the cellar. And this is in many things: 
as in speech and countenance, and outrageous array of clothing; 
for certes, if there had been no sin in clothing, Christ would not 
so soon have noted and spoken of the clothing of that rich man 
in the gospel. And Saint Gregory saith, that precious clothing is 
culpable for the dearth [dearness] of it, and for its softness, and 
for its strangeness and disguising, and for the superfluity or for 
the inordinate scantness of it; alas! may not a man see in our 
days the sinful costly array of clothing, and namely [specially] in 
too much superfluity, or else in too disordinate scantness? As to 
the first sin, in superfluity of clothing, which that maketh it so 
dear, to the harm of the people, not only the cost of the 
embroidering, the disguising, indenting or barring, ounding, 
paling, <8> winding, or banding, and semblable [similar] waste 
of cloth in vanity; but there is also the costly furring [lining or 
edging with fur] in their gowns, so much punching of chisels to 
make holes, so much dagging [cutting] of shears, with the 
superfluity in length of the foresaid gowns, trailing in the dung 
and in the mire, on horse and eke on foot, as well of man as of 
woman, that all that trailing is verily (as in effect) wasted, 
consumed, threadbare, and rotten with dung, rather than it is 
given to the poor, to great damage of the foresaid poor folk, 
and that in sundry wise: this is to say, the more that cloth is 
wasted, the more must it cost to the poor people for the 
scarceness; and furthermore, if so be that they would give such 
punched and dagged clothing to the poor people, it is not 
convenient to wear for their estate, nor sufficient to boot [help, 
remedy] their necessity, to keep them from the distemperance 
[inclemency] of the firmament. Upon the other side, to speak of 
the horrible disordinate scantness of clothing, as be these cutted 
slops or hanselines [breeches] , that through their shortness 
cover not the shameful member of man, to wicked intent alas! 
some of them shew the boss and the shape of the horrible 
swollen members, that seem like to the malady of hernia, in the 

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wrapping of their hosen, and eke the buttocks of them, that fare 
as it were the hinder part of a she-ape in the full of the moon. 
And more over the wretched swollen members that they shew 
through disguising, in departing [dividing] of their hosen in 
white and red, seemeth that half their shameful privy members 
were flain [flayed]. And if so be that they depart their hosen in 
other colours, as is white and blue, or white and black, or black 
and red, and so forth; then seemeth it, by variance of colour, 
that the half part of their privy members be corrupt by the fire 
of Saint Anthony, or by canker, or other such mischance. And 
of the hinder part of their buttocks it is full horrible to see, for 
certes, in that part of their body where they purge their stinking 
ordure, that foul part shew they to the people proudly in despite 
of honesty [decency], which honesty Jesus Christ and his friends 
observed to shew in his life. Now as of the outrageous array of 
women, God wot, that though the visages of some of them 
seem full chaste and debonair [gentle], yet notify they, in their 
array of attire, likerousness and pride. I say not that honesty 
[reasonable and appropriate style] in clothing of man or woman 
unconvenable but, certes, the superfluity or disordinate scarcity 
of clothing is reprovable. Also the sin of their ornament, or of 
apparel, as in things that appertain to riding, as in too many 
delicate horses, that be holden for delight, that be so fair, fat, 
and costly; and also in many a vicious knave, [servant] that is 
sustained because of them; in curious harness, as in saddles, 
cruppers, peytrels, [breast-plates] and bridles, covered with 
precious cloth and rich bars and plates of gold and silver. For 
which God saith by Zechariah the prophet, "I will confound the 
riders of such horses. "These folk take little regard of the riding 
of God's Son of heaven, and of his harness, when he rode upon 
an ass, and had no other harness but the poor clothes of his 
disciples; nor we read not that ever he rode on any other beast. 
I speak this for the sin of superfluity, and not for reasonable 
honesty [seemliness], when reason it requireth. And moreover, 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

certes, pride is greatly notified in holding of great meinie 
[retinue of servants], when they be of little profit or of right no 
profit, and namely [especially] when that meinie is felonous 
[violent ] and damageous [harmful] to the people by hardiness 
[arrogance] of high lordship, or byway of office; for certes, 
such lords sell then their lordship to the devil of hell, when they 
sustain the wickedness of their meinie. Or else, when these folk 
of low degree, as they that hold hostelries, sustain theft of their 
hostellers, and that is in many manner of deceits: that manner of 
folk be the flies that follow the honey, or else the hounds that 
follow the carrion. Such foresaid folk strangle spiritually their 
lordships; for which thus saith David the prophet, "Wicked 
death may come unto these lordships, and God give that they 
may descend into hell adown; for in their houses is iniquity and 
shrewedness, [impiety] and not God of heaven." And certes, but 
if [unless] they do amendment, right as God gave his benison 
[blessing] to Laban by the service of Jacob, and to Pharaoh by 
the service of Joseph; right so God will give his malison 
[condemnation] to such lordships as sustain the wickedness of 
their servants, but [unless] they come to amendment. Pride of 
the table apaireth [worketh harm] eke full oft; for, certes, rich 
men be called to feasts, and poor folk be put away and rebuked; 
also in excess of divers meats and drinks, and namely [specially] 
such manner bake-meats and dish-meats burning of wild fire, 
and painted and castled with paper, and semblable [similar] 
waste, so that it is abuse to think. And eke in too great 
preciousness of vessel, [plate] and curiosity of minstrelsy, by 
which a man is stirred more to the delights of luxury, if so be 
that he set his heart the less upon our Lord Jesus Christ, certain 
it is a sin; and certainly the delights might be so great in this 
case, that a man might lightly [easily] fall by them into deadly 

[The sins that arise of pride advisedly and habitually are deadly; 

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those that arise by frailty unadvised suddenly, and suddenly 
withdraw again, though grievous, are not deadly. Pride itself 
springs sometimes of the goods of nature, sometimes of the 
goods of fortune, sometimes of the goods of grace; but the 
Parson, enumerating and examining all these in turn, points out 
how little security they possess and how little ground for pride 
they furnish, and goes on to enforce the remedy against pride — 
which is humility or meekness, a virtue through which a man 
hath true knowledge of himself, and holdeth no high esteem of 
himself in regard of his deserts, considering ever his frailty] 

Now be there three manners [kinds] of humility; as humility in 
heart, and another in the mouth, and the third in works. The 
humility in the heart is in four manners: the one is, when a man 
holdeth himself as nought worth before God of heaven; the 
second is, when he despiseth no other man; the third is, when he 
recketh not though men hold him nought worth; the fourth is, 
when he is not sorry of his humiliation. Also the humility of 
mouth is in four things: in temperate speech; in humility of 
speech; and when he confesseth with his own mouth that he is 
such as he thinketh that he is in his heart; another is, when he 
praiseth the bounte [goodness] of another man and nothing 
thereof diminisheth. Humility eke in works is in four manners: 
the first is, when he putteth other men before him; the second is, 
to choose the lowest place of all; the third is, gladly to assent to 
good counsel; the fourth is, to stand gladly by the award 
[judgment] of his sovereign, or of him that is higher in degree: 
certain this is a great work of humility. 

[The Parson proceeds to treat of the other cardinal sins, and 
their remedies: (2.) Envy, with its remedy, the love of God 
principally and of our neighbours as ourselves: (3.) Anger, with 
all its fruits in revenge, rancour, hate, discord, manslaughter, 
blasphemy, swearing, falsehood, flattery, chiding and reproving. 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

scorning, treachery, sowing of strife, doubleness of tongue, 
betraying of counsel to a man's disgrace, menacing, idle words, 
jangling, j apery or buffoonery, &c. — and its remedy in the 
virtues called mansuetude, debonairte, or gentleness, and 
patience or sufferance: (4.) Sloth, or "Accidie," which comes 
after the sin of Anger, because Envy blinds the eyes of a man, 
and Anger troubleth a man, and Sloth maketh him heavy, 
thoughtful, and peevish. It is opposed to every estate of man — 
as unfallen, and held to work in praising and adoring God; as 
sinful, and held to labour in praying for deliverance from sin; 
and as in the state of grace, and held to works of penitence. It 
resembles the heavy and sluggish condition of those in hell; it 
will suffer no hardness and no penance; it prevents any 
beginning of good works; it causes despair of God's mercy, 
which is the sin against the Holy Ghost; it induces somnolency 
and neglect of communion in prayer with God; and it breeds 
negligence or recklessness, that cares for nothing, and is the 
nurse of all mischiefs, if ignorance is their mother. Against 
Sloth, and these and other branches and fruits of it, the remedy 
lies in the virtue of fortitude or strength, in its various species of 
magnanimity or great courage; faith and hope in God and his 
saints; surety or sickerness, when a man fears nothing that can 
oppose the good works he has under taken; magnificence, when 
he carries out great works of goodness begun; constancy or 
stableness of heart; and other incentives to energy and laborious 
service: (5.) Avarice, or Covetousness, which is the root of all 
harms, since its votaries are idolaters, oppressors and enslavers 
of men, deceivers of their equals in business, simoniacs, 
gamblers, liars, thieves, false swearers, blasphemers, murderers, 
and sacrilegious. Its remedy lies in compassion and pity largely 
exercised, and in reasonable liberality — for those who spend on 
"fool-largesse," or ostentation of worldly estate and luxury, 
shall receive the malison [condemnation] that Christ shall give 
at the day of doom to them that shall be damned: (6.) Gluttony; 

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— of which the Parson treats so briefly that the chapter may be 
given in full: — ] 

After Avarice cometh Gluttony, which is express against the 
commandment of God. Gluttony is unmeasurable appetite to eat 
or to drink; or else to do in aught to the unmeasurable appetite 
and disordered covetousness [craving] to eat or drink. This sin 
corrupted all this world, as is well shewed in the sin of Adam 
and of Eve. Look also what saith Saint Paul of gluttony: 
"Many," saith he, "go, of which I have oft said to you, and now 
I say it weeping, that they be enemies of the cross of Christ, of 
which the end is death, and of which their womb [stomach] is 
their God and their glory;" in confusion of them that so savour 
[take delight in] earthly things. He that is usant [accustomed, 
addicted] to this sin of gluttony, he may no sin withstand, he 
must be in servage [bondage] of all vices, for it is the devil's 
hoard, [lair, lurking-place] where he hideth him in and resteth. 
This sin hath many species. The first is drunkenness, that is the 
horrible sepulture of man's reason: and therefore when a man is 
drunken, he hath lost his reason; and this is deadly sin. But 
soothly, when that a man is not wont to strong drink, and 
peradventure knoweth not the strength of the drink, or hath 
feebleness in his head, or hath travailed [laboured], through 
which he drinketh the more, all [although] be he suddenly 
caught with drink, it is no deadly sin, but venial. The second 
species of gluttony is, that the spirit of a man waxeth all 
troubled for drunkenness, and bereaveth a man the discretion of 
his wit. The third species of gluttony is, when a man devoureth 
his meat, and hath no rightful manner of eating. The fourth is, 
when, through the great abundance of his meat, the humours of 
his body be distempered. The fifth is, forgetfulness by too much 
drinking, for which a man sometimes forgetteth by the morrow 
what be did at eve. In other manner be distinct the species of 
gluttony, after Saint Gregory. The first is, for to eat or drink 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

before time. The second is, when a man getteth him too delicate 
meat or drink. The third is, when men take too much over 
measure [immoderately]. The fourth is curiosity [nicety] with 
great intent [application, pains] to make and apparel [prepare] 
his meat. The fifth is, for to eat too greedily. These be the five 
fingers of the devil's hand, by which he draweth folk to the sin. 

Against gluttony the remedy is abstinence, as saith Galen; but 
that I hold not meritorious, if he do it only for the health of his 
body. Saint Augustine will that abstinence be done for virtue, 
and with patience. Abstinence, saith he, is little worth, but if 
[unless] a man have good will thereto, and but it be enforced by 
patience and by charity, and that men do it for God's sake, and 
in hope to have the bliss in heaven. The fellows of abstinence be 
temperance, that holdeth the mean in all things; also shame, that 
escheweth all dishonesty [indecency, impropriety], sufficiency, 
that seeketh no rich meats nor drinks, nor doth no force of [sets 
no value on] no outrageous apparelling of meat; measure 
[moderation] also, that restraineth by reason the unmeasurable 
appetite of eating; soberness also, that restraineth the outrage of 
drink; sparing also, that restraineth the delicate ease to sit long 
at meat, wherefore some folk stand of their own will to eat, 
because they will eat at less leisure. 

[At great length the Parson then points out the many varieties of 
the sin of (7.) Lechery, and its remedy in chastity and 
continence, alike in marriage and in widowhood; also in the 
abstaining from all such indulgences of eating, drinking, and 
sleeping as inflame the passions, and from the company of all 
who may tempt to the sin. Minute guidance is given as to the 
duty of confessing fully and faithfully the circumstances that 
attend and may aggravate this sin; and the Treatise then passes 
to the consideration of the conditions that are essential to a true 
and profitable confession of sin in general. First, it must be in 

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sorrowful bitterness of spirit; a condition that has five signs — 
shamefastness, humility in heart and outward sign, weeping with 
the bodily eyes or in the heart, disregard of the shame that 
might curtail or garble confession, and obedience to the penance 
enjoined. Secondly, true confession must be promptly made, for 
dread of death, of increase of sinfulness, of forgetfulness of 
what should be confessed, of Christ's refusal to hear if it be put 
off to the last day of life; and this condition has four terms; that 
confession be well pondered beforehand, that the man 
confessing have comprehended in his mind the number and 
greatness of his sins and how long he has lain in sin, that he be 
contrite for and eschew his sins, and that he fear and flee the 
occasions for that sin to which he is inclined. — What follows 
under this head is of some interest for the light which it throws 
on the rigorous government wielded by the Romish Church in 
those days — ] 

Also thou shalt shrive thee of all thy sins to one man, and not a 
parcel [portion] to one man, and a parcel to another; that is to 
understand, in intent to depart [divide] thy confession for shame 
or dread; for it is but strangling of thy soul. For certes Jesus 
Christ is entirely all good, in him is none imperfection, and 
therefore either he forgiveth all perfectly, or else never a deal 
[not at all]. I say not that if thou be assigned to thy penitencer 
<9> for a certain sin, that thou art bound to shew him all the 
remnant of thy sins, of which thou hast been shriven of thy 
curate, but if it like thee [unless thou be pleased] of thy 
humility; this is no departing [division] of shrift. And I say not, 
where I speak of division of confession, that if thou have license 
to shrive thee to a discreet and an honest priest, and where thee 
liketh, and by the license of thy curate, that thou mayest not 
well shrive thee to him of all thy sins: but let no blot be behind, 
let no sin be untold as far as thou hast remembrance. And when 
thou shalt be shriven of thy curate, tell him eke all the sins that 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

thou hast done since thou wert last shriven. This is no wicked 
intent of division of shrift. Also, very shrift [true confession] 
asketh certain conditions. First, that thou shrive thee by thy 
free will, not constrained, nor for shame of folk, nor for malady 
[sickness], or such things: for it is reason, that he that 
trespasseth by his free will, that by his free will he confess his 
trespass; and that no other man tell his sin but himself; nor he 
shall not nay nor deny his sin, nor wrath him against the priest 
for admonishing him to leave his sin. The second condition is, 
that thy shrift be lawful, that is to say, that thou that shrivest 
thee, and eke the priest that heareth thy confession, be verily in 
the faith of Holy Church, and that a man be not despaired of the 
mercy of Jesus Christ, as Cain and Judas were. And eke a man 
must accuse himself of his own trespass, and not another: but he 
shall blame and wite [accuse] himself of his own malice and of 
his sin, and none other: but nevertheless, if that another man be 
occasion or else enticer of his sin, or the estate of the person be 
such by which his sin is aggravated, or else that be may not 
plainly shrive him but [unless] he tell the person with which he 
hath sinned, then may he tell, so that his intent be not to 
backbite the person, but only to declare his confession. Thou 
shalt not eke make no leasings [falsehoods] in thy confession 
for humility, peradventure, to say that thou hast committed and 
done such sins of which that thou wert never guilty. For Saint 
Augustine saith, "If that thou, because of humility, makest a 
leasing on thyself, though thou were not in sin before, yet art 
thou then in sin through thy leasing. "Thou must also shew thy 
sin by thine own proper mouth, but [unless] thou be dumb, and 
not by letter; for thou that hast done the sin, thou shalt have the 
shame of the confession. Thou shalt not paint thy confession 
with fair and subtle words, to cover the more thy sin; for then 
beguilest thou thyself, and not the priest; thou must tell it 
plainly, be it never so foul nor so horrible. Thou shalt eke shrive 
thee to a priest that is discreet to counsel thee; and eke thou 

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shalt not shrive thee for vain-glory, nor for hypocrisy, nor for 
no cause but only for the doubt [fear] of Jesus' Christ and the 
health of thy soul. Thou shalt not run to the priest all suddenly, 
to tell him lightly thy sin, as who telleth a jape [jest] or a tale, 
but advisedly and with good devotion; and generally shrive thee 
oft; if thou oft fall, oft arise by confession. And though thou 
shrive thee oftener than once of sin of which thou hast been 
shriven, it is more merit; and, as saith Saint Augustine, thou 
shalt have the more lightly [easily] release and grace of God, 
both of sin and of pain. And certes, once a year at the least way, 
it is lawful to be houseled, < 10> for soothly once a year all 
things in the earth renovelen [renew themselves]. 

[Here ends the Second Part of the Treatise; the Third Part, 
which contains the practical application of the whole, follows 
entire, along with the remarkable "Prayer of Chaucer," as it 
stands in the Harleian Manuscript: — ] 

DeTertia Parte Poenitentiae. [Of the third part of penitence] 

Now have I told you of very [true] confession, that is the 
second part of penitence: The third part of penitence is 
satisfaction, and that standeth generally in almsdeed and bodily 
pain. Now be there three manner of almsdeed: contrition of 
heart, where a man offereth himself to God; the second is, to 
have pity of the default of his neighbour; the third is, in giving 
of good counsel and comfort, ghostly and bodily, where men 
have need, and namely [specially] sustenance of man's food. 
And take keep [heed] that a man hath need of these things 
generally; he hath need of food, of clothing, and of herberow 
[lodging], he hath need of charitable counsel and visiting in 
prison and malady, and sepulture of his dead body. And if thou 
mayest not visit the needful with thy person, visit them by thy 
message and by thy gifts. These be generally alms or works of 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

charity of them that have temporal riches or discretion in 
counselling. Of these works shalt thou hear at the day of doom. 
This alms shouldest thou do of thine own proper things, and 
hastily [promptly], and privily [secretly] if thou mayest; but 
nevertheless, if thou mayest not do it privily, thou shalt not 
forbear to do alms, though men see it, so that it be not done for 
thank of the world, but only for thank of Jesus Christ. For, as 
witnesseth Saint Matthew, chap, v., "A city may not be hid that 
is set on a mountain, nor men light not a lantern and put it 
under a bushel, but men set it on a candlestick, to light the men 
in the house; right so shall your light lighten before men, that 
they may see your good works, and glorify your Father that is 
in heaven." 

Now as to speak of bodily pain, it is in prayer, in wakings, 
[watchings] in fastings, and in virtuous teachings. Of orisons ye 
shall understand, that orisons or prayers is to say a piteous will 
of heart, that redresseth it in God, and expresseth it byword 
outward, to remove harms, and to have things spiritual and 
durable, and sometimes temporal things. Of which orisons, 
certes in the orison of the Pater noster hath our Lord Jesus 
Christ enclosed most things. Certes, it is privileged of three 
things in its dignity, for which it is more digne [worthy] than 
any other prayer: for Jesus Christ himself made it: and it is 
short, for [in order] it should be coude the more lightly, [be 
more easily conned or learned] and to withhold [retain] it the 
more easy in heart, and help himself the oftener with this orison; 
and for a man should be the less weary to say it; and for a man 
may not excuse him to learn it, it is so short and so easy: and 
for it comprehendeth in itself all good prayers. The exposition 
of this holy prayer, that is so excellent and so digne, I betake 
[commit] to these masters of theology; save thus much will I 
say, when thou prayest that God should forgive thee thy guilts, 
as thou forgivest them that they guilt to thee, be full well ware 

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that thou be not out of charity. This holy orison aminisheth 
[lesseneth] eke venial sin, and therefore it appertaineth specially 
to penitence. This prayer must be truly said, and in very faith, 
and that men pray to God ordinately, discreetly, and devoutly; 
and always a man shall put his will to be subject to the will of 
God. This orison must eke be said with great humbleness and 
full pure, and honestly, and not to the annoyance of any man or 
woman. It must eke be continued with the works of charity. It 
availeth against the vices of the soul; for, assaith Saint Jerome, 
by fasting be saved the vices of the flesh, and by prayer the 
vices of the soul 

After this thou shalt understand, that bodily pain stands in 
waking [watching]. For Jesus Christ saith "Wake and pray, that 
ye enter not into temptation." Ye shall understand also, that 
fasting stands in three things: in forbearing of bodily meat and 
drink, and in forbearing of worldly jollity, and in forbearing of 
deadly sin; this is to say, that a man shall keep him from deadly 
sin in all that he may. And thou shalt understand eke, that God 
ordained fasting; and to fasting appertain four things: largeness 
[generosity] to poor folk; gladness of heart spiritual; not to be 
angry nor annoyed nor grudge [murmur] for he fasteth; and also 
reasonable hour for to eat by measure; that is to say, a man 
should not eat in untime [out of time], nor sit the longer at his 
meal for [because] he fasteth. Then shalt thou understand, that 
bodily pain standeth in discipline, or teaching, byword, or by 
writing, or by ensample. Also in wearing of hairs [haircloth] or 
of stamin [coarse hempen cloth], or of habergeons [mail-shirts] 
< 11 > on their naked flesh for Christ's sake; but ware thee well 
that such manner penance of thy flesh make not thine heart 
bitter or angry, nor annoyed of thyself; for better is to cast away 
thine hair than to cast away the sweetness of our Lord Jesus 
Christ. And therefore saith Saint Paul, "Clothe you, as they that 
be chosen of God in heart, of misericorde [with compassion]. 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

debonairte [gentleness], sufferance [patience], and such manner 
of clothing," of which Jesus Christ is more apaid [better 
pleased] than of hairs or of hauberks. Then is discipline eke in 
knocking of thy breast, in scourging with yards [rods], in 
kneelings, in tribulations, in suffering patiently wrongs that be 
done to him, and eke in patient sufferance of maladies, or losing 
of worldly catel [chattels], or of wife, or of child, or of other 

Then shalt thou understand which things disturb penance, and 
this is in four things; that is dread, shame, hope, and wanhope, 
that is, desperation. And for to speak first of dread, for which 
he weeneth that he may suffer no penance, thereagainst is 
remedy for to think that bodily penance is but short and little at 
the regard of [in comparison with] the pain of hell, that is so 
cruel and so long, that it lasteth without end. Now against the 
shame that a man hath to shrive him, and namely [specially] 
these hypocrites, that would be holden so perfect, that they 
have no need to shrive them; against that shame should a man 
think, that byway of reason he that hath not been ashamed to 
do foul things, certes he ought not to be ashamed to do fair 
things, and that is confession. A man should eke think, that God 
seeth and knoweth all thy thoughts, and all thy works; to him 
may nothing be hid nor covered. Men should eke remember 
them of the shame that is to come at the day of doom, to them 
that be not penitent and shriven in this present life; for all the 
creatures in heaven, and in earth, and in hell, shall see apertly 
[openly] all that he hideth in this world. 

Now for to speak of them that be so negligent and slow to 
shrive them; that stands in two manners. The one is, that he 
hopeth to live long, and to purchase [acquire] much riches for 
his delight, and then he will shrive him: and, as he sayeth, he 
may, as him seemeth, timely enough come to shrift: another is. 

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the surquedrie [presumption <12>] that he hath in Christ's 
mercy. Against the first vice, he shall think that our life is in no 
sickerness, [security] and eke that all the riches in this world be 
in adventure, and pass as a shadow on the wall; and, as saith St 
Gregory, that it appertaineth to the great righteousness of God, 
that never shall the pain stint [cease] of them, that never would 
withdraw them from sin, their thanks [with their goodwill], but 
aye continue in sin; for that perpetual will to do sin shall they 
have perpetual pain. Wanhope [despair] is in two manners [of 
two kinds]. The first wanhope is, in the mercy of God: the other 
is, that they think they might not long persevere in goodness. 
The first wanhope cometh of that he deemeth that he sinned so 
highly and so oft, and so long hath lain in sin, that he shall not 
be saved. Certes against that cursed wanhope should he think, 
that the passion of Jesus Christ is more strong for to unbind, 
than sin is strong for to bind. Against the second wanhope he 
shall think, that as oft as he falleth, he may arise again by 
penitence; and though he never so long hath lain in sin, the 
mercy of Christ is always ready to receive him to mercy. 
Against the wanhope that he thinketh he should not long 
persevere in goodness, he shall think that the feebleness of the 
devil may nothing do, but [unless] men will suffer him; and eke 
he shall have strength of the help of God, and of all Holy 
Church, and of the protection of angels, if him list. 

Then shall men understand, what is the fruit of penance; and 
after the word of Jesus Christ, it is the endless bliss of heaven, 
where joy hath no contrariety of woe nor of penance nor 
grievance; there all harms be passed of this present life; there as 
is the sickerness [security] from the pain of hell; there as is the 
blissful company, that rejoice them evermore each of the other's 
joy; there as the body of man, that whilom was foul and dark, is 
more clear than the sun; there as the body of man that whilom 
was sick and frail, feeble and mortal, is immortal, and so strong 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

and so whole, that there may nothing apair [impair, injure] it; 
there is neither hunger, nor thirst, nor cold, but every soul 
replenished with the sight of the perfect knowing of God. This 
blissful regne [kingdom] may men purchase by poverty spiritual, 
and the glory by lowliness, the plenty of joy by hunger and 
thirst, the rest by travail, and the life by death and mortification 
of sin; to which life He us bring, that bought us with his 
precious blood! Amen. 


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&wee^(jfe wAaneetf^ . 

*Prayer of Chaucer* 

Now pray I to you all that hear this little treatise or read it, that 
if there be anything in it that likes them, that thereof they thank 
our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom proceedeth all wit and all 
goodness; and if there be anything that displeaseth them, I pray 
them also that they arette [impute] it to the default of mine 
unconning [unskilfulness], and not to my will, that would fain 
have said better if I had had conning; for the book saith, all that 
is written for our doctrine is written. Wherefore I beseech you 
meekly for the mercy of God that ye pray for me, that God have 
mercy on me and forgive me my guilts, and namely [specially] 
my translations and of inditing in worldly vanities, which I 
revoke in my Retractions, as is the Book of Troilus, the Book 
also of Fame, the Book of Twenty- five Ladies, the Book of the 
Duchess, the Book of Saint Valentine's Day and of the 
Parliament of Birds, the Tales of Canter bury, all those that 
sounen unto sin, [are sinful, tend towards sin] the Book of the 
Lion, and many other books, if they were in my mind or 
remembrance, and many a song and many a lecherous lay, of the 
which Christ for his great mercy forgive me the sins. But of the 
translation of Boece de Consolatione, and other books of 
consolation and of legend of lives of saints, and homilies, and 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

moralities, and devotion, that thank I our Lord Jesus Christ, and 
his mother, and all the saints in heaven, beseeching them that 
they from henceforth unto my life's end send me grace to bewail 
my guilts, and to study to the salvation of my soul, and grant 
me grace and space of very repentance, penitence, confession, 
and satisfaction, to do in this present life, through the benign 
grace of Him that is King of kings and Priest of all priests, that 
bought us with his precious blood of his heart, so that I maybe 
one of them at the day of doom that shall be saved: Qui cum 
Patre et Spiritu Sancto vivis et regnas Deus per omnia secula. 

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Geoffrey Chaucer (ca.l343- 
1400) was an English author, philoso- 
pher, diplomat, and poet, and is best 
known and remembered as the au- 
thor of The Canterbury Tales. He is 
sometimes credited with being the 
first author to demonstrate the artistic 


Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

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Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

legitimacy of the English language. 

He was a contemporary of Giovanni Boccaccio and Christine de 
Pizan. Although born as a son of a vintner, he became a page at the 
court of Edward III of England. He was in the service of first Eliza- 
beth de Burgh, Countess of Ulster, and then Lionel of Antwerp, son of 
Edward III. He traveled from England to France, Spain, Flanders, and 
Italy (Genoa and Florence), where he car \ ieval 

continental poetry. 

Geoffrey Chaucer 

Chaucer married, ca. 1366, Philippa 
Edward Ill's queen, Philippa of Haina ;: 
Swynford, who later (ca. 1396) became 


"The Court Of Love" was probably Chaucer's first poem of any 
consequence. It is believed to have been written at the age, and 
under the circumstances, of which it contains express mention; 
that is, when the poet was eighteen years old, and resided as a 
student at Cambridge, — about the year 1346. The composition 
is marked by an elegance, care, and fmish very different from 

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the bold freedom which in so great measure distinguishes the 
Canterbury Tales; and the fact is easily explained when we 
remember that, in the earlier poem, Chaucer followed a beaten 
path, in which he had many predecessors and competitors, all 
seeking to sound the praises of love with the grace, the 
ingenuity, and studious devotion, appropriate to the theme. The 
story of the poem is exceedingly simple. Under the name of 
Philogenet, a clerk or scholar of Cambridge, the poet relates 
that, summoned by Mercury to the Court of Love, he journeys 
to the splendid castle where the King and Queen of Love, 
Admetus and Alcestis, keep their state. Discovering among the 
courtiers a friend named Philobone, a chamberwoman to the 
Queen, Philogenet is led by her into a circular temple, where, in 
a tabernacle, sits Venus, with Cupid by her side. While he is 
surveying the motley crowd of suitors to the goddess, 
Philogenet is summoned back into the King's presence, chidden 
for his tardiness in coming to Court, and commanded to swear 
observance to the twenty Statutes of Love — which are recited 
at length. Philogenet then makes his prayers and vows to 
Venus, desiring that he may have for his love a lady whom he 
has seen in a dream; and Philobone introduces him to the lady 
herself, named Rosial, to whom he does suit and service of love. 
At first the lady is obdurate to his entreaties; but, Philogenet 
having proved the sincerity of his passion by a fainting fit, 
Rosial relents, promises her favour, and orders Philobone to 
conduct him round the Court. The courtiers are then minutely 
described; but the description is broken off abruptly, and we are 
introduced to Rosial in the midst of a confession of her love. 
Finally she commands Philogenet to abide with her until the 
First of May, when the King of Love will hold high festival; he 
obeys; and the poem closes with the May Day festival service, 
celebrated by a choir of birds, who sing an ingenious, but what 
must have seemed in those days a more than slightly profane, 
paraphrase or parody of the matins for Trinity Sunday, to the 



Geoffrery Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. 

praise of Cupid. From this outline, it will be seen at once that 
Chaucer's "Court of Love" is in important particulars different 
from the institutions which, in the two centuries preceding his 
own, had so much occupied the attention of poets and gallants, 
and so powerfully controlled the social life of the noble and 
refmed cla